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Friday, March 5th, 2021

Defense officials offer testimony on nuclear modernization, replacement programs

Modernizing and replacing programs related to the United States nuclear triad is the first priority for both the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy, according to testimony from key defense officials at a recent House Armed Services Strategic Force Subcommittee hearing regarding the President’s proposed FY2018 budget.

National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Frank Klotz said the NNSA’s total budget request was tallied at $13.9 billion, nearly $1 billion more than FY2017 levels. The figure represented approximately half of the Department of Energy’s total budget.

“We’re very grateful for the level of spending that has been proposed in the president’s [fiscal 2018] budget,” Klotz said. “It will allow us to tackle some of our very important infrastructure recapitalization projects, such as the uranium processing facility at Y-12 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.”

Klotz detailed the agency’s requests which included $10.2 billion for weapons activity appropriation, $1.8 billion for nuclear defense nonproliferation, $1.5 billion for the Navy’s reactors program, and $418 million for federal salaries and expenses.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy Rob Soofer stated that the President’s requested review of the United States’ nuclear posture was expected to be completed by the end of the calendar year. In addition, he said the Department of Defense expected nuclear recapitalization costs to reach between $230 billion and $290 billion over a period of more than two decades.

Air Force Gen. Robin Rand discussed the need for modernization efforts across the Air Force Global Strike Command.

“Fiscal constraints, while posing planning challenges, do not alter the national security landscape or the intent of competitors and adversaries,” Rand said. “Nor do they diminish the enduring value of long-range strategic forces to our nation.”

Navy Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, who serves as director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, used his testimony to address long-term sustainment of the nuclear triad’s sea-based leg. He said that current life extension efforts would sustain the D-5 system until the 2040 and that the Navy was beginning to evaluate options to maintain effective weapons systems to end the Columbia class service life into the 2080’s.