James ActonNuclear Stimulus

The Senate, in its attempt to slim down the stimulus bill, has apparently managed to squeeze in a little bit for nukes. A billion dollars, in fact.

In various Senate version of the Bill, including on page 78 of what I believe is the most recent version, the Collins/Nelson* Bill, the following appears:


National Nuclear Security Administration


For an additional amount for weapons activities, $1,000,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010.

Some stories speak for themselves, I think, so don’t require editorializing.

I’ll just point you in the direction of some of the organizations and blogs that have been covering the story (WAND, Talking Points Memo and ANA) and thank the person that sent me the tip-off.

Oh, and Everett Dirksen’s most famous bon mot really does seem appropriate here: “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

*I don’t think this URL will be stable. The same language appears on page 76 of S 336, for instance.


  1. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    And where was the place of Everett Dirksen’s birth?

  2. Smith (History)

    Let’s not forget the following provision also under the NNSA:

    “For an additional amount for `Defense Environmental Cleanup’, $5,527,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010.”

    That’s a lot of dough.

  3. FSB

    The WAND link says that “the House version of this bill does not have the same provision.”

    Is that relevant? Is it something the admin wanted but got cut out?

    The NNSA’s budget (and the goddamn stockpile) should be cut not increased.

    Who are we going to be using these nukes against? What actions by whom are they deterring? Will Russia and China not be deterred by 55 nukes? Is China planning to see all the money they lent us go up in smoke?

    What is the risk of deterrence failure? What is the risk of accidental/mistaken/unauthorized use? Those studies could use an 11% increase in their budgets.

  4. Stephen Young (History)

    Much as bashing the nuclear weapons budget is fun (and often worthwhile), in this case one could argue that most of money isn’t going for particularly nefarious purposes.

    One should keep in mind this package is being written by Democrats who generally have opposed Bush’s nuclear weapons initiatives.

    As pointed out to me by Daryl Kimball, today’s issue of Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor provides details on what the money is for:

    * $90 million for transformation disposition, the first stages of the NNSA’s plans to demolish 600 buildings and structures around the complex

    * $360 million for energy projects

    * $400 million for dozens of minor general plant projects involving the replacement of utility poles and electrical systems, the repaving of roads, and maintenance

    * $50 million for site-wide security enhancements similar to what had been included in a previous version of the stimulus in the Fall

    * $100 million for the Advanced Computer Simulation Program

    Of this, only the money for computer simulation is clearly troubling, as they seek to model explosions in large part so they can design new bombs without having to actually explode them.

    The rest is largely actually good or at least benign, assuming this money won’t free up other money to do those above mentioned yet un-detailed nefarious things.

    Details, devils, etc.

  5. Allen Thomson (History)

    A slightly odd question, but is there any mention of Pu238 production? A friend who’s been looking at future NASA science missions says there’s a serious constraint on outer solar system missions caused by a dearth of Pu238 and the ability to produce it.

  6. Andy (History)


    There are actually a lot of differences between the two bills. Provided both pass (which looks likely at this point), the differences will be settled in conference and the product of that will be subject to a conference vote (which almost always passes). It’s anyone’s guess as to what provisions will make the final bill out of conference and the process, unfortunately, isn’t very transparent as a lot of back-room dealing takes place. So, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  7. Frustrated with Recent Posts

    Stephen Young makes an important point. Most of this money is consistent with a pathway to a smaller stockpile.

    It is disappointing when a blog that is generally of such good quality occasionally features posts that are reactionary and misinformed. Yes, yes, we all look forward to the day of a much smaller stockpile and the smaller budgets that will accompany this, but the authors of this blog are not (or should not be) unaware that the types of maintenance activities that will allow us to draw down also cost money. There has been a tendency of late to include posts that are easy and viscerally satisfying but lack nuance or backstory. These types of posts blemish this Blog’s reputation and nudge it toward the type of inward facing conversation that characterizes so much of the public sphere.

    In this vein, it is also worth correcting Smith (though not an author on this Blog): the Defense Environmental Cleanup money is not under NNSA. Instead, it is part of long term Environmental Management program that cleans up the environmental legacy of the weapons program. You may object, in principle, to the amount of money being spent in the proposed stimulus packages, but we can’t possibly be against cleaning up our own mess, can we?

  8. Loraine (History)

    The Senate report requires the funding to be used for infrastructure and energy projects – not programmatics. The exception is the computing money that totals $100M (given alongside $900M to Office of Science as a measure to put $1B into DOE’s computing capabilities). The idea of a ‘green’ nuclear weapons complex is probably not something anyone has really thought of, but that doesn’t mean its not worth pursuing -that is if they actually use the money wisely. Why shouldn’t you power weapons dismantlements with wind turbines? Defense Environmental Cleanup money does not go to the NNSA, but to DOE.

  9. Todd (History)


    Funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s weapons program was removed from the final version of the economic stimulus bill set to emerge from House-Senate conference negotiations later today, NW&M Monitor has learned. The Senate version of the stimulus included $1 billion for backlogged projects, energy initiatives, maintenance and advanced supercomputing, while the House included no funds for the agency. See the next issue of NW&M Monitor for more information.

  10. kerbihan

    @Stephen –

    Why do you say that “the money for computer simulation is clearly troubling, as they seek to model explosions in large part so they can design new bombs”?

    As you certainly know (if you are “the” Stephen Young), computer simulations have many other uses than designing new bombs. It is a very useful instrument for good stockpile stewardship.

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