The White House released a plan yesterday to pump up their investment in the United States’ nuclear weapons complex by another $4.1 billion, bringing the total spending on the complex over the next decade to $85 billion. This is on top of a 10 percent increase in the FY2011 nuke budget request currently awaiting Congressional passage. The money would go to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the complex.
Why all the new money—especially for an agency notorious for its poor financial management? Because the Obama administration wants to prove it’s “commitment” to modernizing the nuclear complex to members of the U.S. Senate pondering ratification of the New START treaty. Problem is these members keep raising the price tag: The original commitment of $80 billion over the next decade apparently wasn’t enough, so they came back for more.
Another big problem with this budget increase is that the need for many of the "modernization" projects in the works is debatable. For example, the cost of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has already more than quadrupled, though lawmakers have asked whether the facility is "appropriately sized." A $8 billion "refurbishment" program for warheads regularly proved viable by scientific testing also raises some eyebrows. If Congress approves this funding, it should make NNSA justify every dollar before it leaves the Treasury.