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Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Sens. Feinstein, Markey seeks answers from GAO on NNSA nuclear spending

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U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) are asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine if the nuclear modernization activities by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are sustainable and affordable.

The GAO issued a report in 2017 recommending that NNSA address affordability issues for its program. However, the senators say the Trump administration has gone in the opposite direction by increasing the cost of U.S. nuclear weapons. For example, President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget for NNSA’s weapons activities calls for a 25 percent increase in funding. Further, the Pentagon projects spending $167 billion over the next five years on nuclear weapons.

“Questions about affordability are critical given the significant expansion in NNSA’s budget and activities,” the senators wrote in a letter to Gene Dodaro, controller of the United States.

The senators are asking the GAO whether NNSA has embraced its recommendation to consider “deferring or cancelling specific modernization programs.” The lawmakers point out that the GAO analysis is even more urgent now that nuclear-weapons spending could increase further if the president allows the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to expire in February 2021.

The senators ask for answers as to whether the NNSA has considered deferring or canceling specific modernization programs, per GAO’s 2017 recommendation; which programs in the NNSA, other areas of the Department of Energy, or other U.S. Government agencies will receive less funding to compensate of weapons activities budget increase; how the potential expiration of New START in February 2021 would affect the assumptions in the FY2021 budget estimate regarding future-years funding.