2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: marylia@earthlink.net
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000 09:16:10 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] NIF budget analysis/speech excerpts
Dear peace and enviro advocates. Thank you to the many of you who weighed
in to stop the National Ignition Facility. Here is an analysis of the NIF
budget debate and outcome for the upcoming fiscal year. It is followed by a
suggested action and excerpts from excellent speeches on the Senate floor
by Tom Harkin and Harry Reid. The excerpts make this a tad longer than I
usually post, but both Senators' words are worthwhile!  Please read on...
Peace, Marylia

Senate Restrains NIF, Conference Committee Lets it Loose

by Marylia Kelley
for Tri-Valley CAREs' October 2000 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

The National Ignition Facility survived the budget ax this year, but just

NIF foes succeeded in bringing the facility's proliferation risks,
technical problems and still-hemorrhaging budget to the attention of
Congress, marking the first time that the institution providing the funds
truly noticed the mega-laser.  This is a significant achievement that can
be built upon and may yield positive results over the long haul, for many
lawmakers did not like what they saw.

NIF advocates came away from the budget battle with a notable chunk of
additional construction money, giving the beleaguered facility a
much-needed shot in the arm, in their view. Certainly, the added funding
does provide a respite for NIF - to the dismay of our organization and many

As reported in our July 2000 edition of Citizen's Watch, the NIF debate
began in the House with a valiant effort led by Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), offering a last-minute amendment to cut NIF
construction that lost on a voice vote.

The action then moved to the Senate. Several factors there allowed for a
more penetrating look at NIF.

In August, the General Accounting Office (GAO) released its report. That
study was highly critical of NIF and pegged its pre-completion costs at $4
billion. (See also the September 2000 Citizen's Watch and the new NIF
postcards, available soon on our website.)

Too, a variety of issues held up the vote on Senate Appropriations, which
served to give staffers and Senators alike a small piece of time in which
to educate themselves on NIF. A number of them studied technical materials
on the mega-laser from several sources, including DOE, Livermore Lab, GAO,
Tri-Valley CAREs and other non-governmental organizations.

Two champions quickly emerged to restrain NIF, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA)
and Harry Reid (D-NV). (See also excerpts from their speeches, below.)

Working with other Senate colleagues, they crafted an amendment to put a
"cap" on NIF's construction budget, limiting it to the $74.1 million in the
DOE's original budget request and slamming the door on an extra $135
million that DOE had begun seeking after the NIF cost overrun became

Additionally, the amendment required the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
to undertake a study of NIF's technical difficulties and its utility (or
lack thereof) for maintaining the safety and reliability of the arsenal.
The NAS study was also to investigate alternative methods for achieving
that goal, and to offer recommendations on whether NIF should be canceled
or scaled back.

The powerful chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Pete Domenici (R-NM),
concurred with their efforts. On September 7, the amendment to cap NIF
construction passed the Senate on a voice vote.

Whenever differences exist between a House bill and a Senate bill, the
matter goes to a special "Conference Committee" for resolution. Since the
Senate had now placed a limit on NIF construction not found in the earlier
House version, the Conference Committee was the next stop on NIF's wild

At this point, the Conferees chose the wasteful and profligate spending
path, offering NIF $199 million for construction in fiscal year 2001. Of
that, $69 million will be held back pending NIF's compliance with specified
milestones. Equally disappointing, however, was that the Conference
Committee did not retain the Senate provision requiring the NAS study,
allowing instead more of the "same old" wherein DOE will review itself to
determine if NIF milestones are met. This leaves entirely too much room for
DOE and Livermore to hide serious, ongoing problems with NIF and to
manipulate the outcome of the reporting requirements.

While the $199 million is $10 million less than Lab management and DOE had
hoped to get, it is being touted by Livermore Lab as a victory for NIF.
Ironically it will likely turn out to incur financial losses for the Lab
overall. For, not all of the NIF construction funding is actually new

Forty million dollars is slated to come out of the NIF operating budget at
Livermore Lab. In other words, this will constitute a lateral move from one
Livermore pot of NIF money to another. Laser operators and other
non-construction employees are generally paid out of the operating budget
-- now to be gutted in favor of construction. No matter what the Lab PR
staff says publicly, privately employees are worried.

Further, the Conferees directed Livermore Lab to take $25 million from its
non-NIF programs as part of the deal to boost NIF construction. The
Committee's report does not specify from which Livermore programs the cuts
will come, apparently leaving DOE and Lab management to make that decision.

This may become a dark year indeed for Livermore Lab's smaller programs,
especially those that have a significant civilian, rather than
predominately military, application. Management is unlikely to look first
to the subcritical nuclear testing program for NIF funds. Instead,
astrophysics, geophysics, basic sciences and other, similar and already
underfunded endeavors at Livermore Lab will feel the budget ax first, most
keenly and with disproportionate pain.

So, rather than being a straightforward matter of NIF avoiding the ax this
year, in reality it is more truly a deflection, a change in the angle of
the ax's descent.

Suggested action: Call Reps. Paul Ryan & Dennis Kucinich and Senators Tom
Harkin & Harry Reid to thank them for their efforts to bring some common
sense and financial restraint to the NIF project. Let them know you care
about cutting NIF and why. Otherwise, DOE and Livermore Lab managers will
be the only voices they will hear. They can all be reached through the
Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Sept. 5, 2000 on NIF funding:

"Leaders from DOE and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab came to me at a
time when many Members of the Senate, including Chairman [Pete] Domenici,
were somewhat skeptical that NIF was actually needed. They assured me that
NIF was absolutely vital to national security and that it would be brought
in on time and within budget. Based on that, I came to bat for NIF and
convinced many of my colleagues to support it. I regret it.

"In my estimation, DOE lied to me. They sold me a bill of goods and I am
not happy about it. It is now several years later and the project is
hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule...
Enough is enough.

"There is plenty of skepticism in the scientific and national security
community as to whether we will ever be able to get the information we need
to certify our stockpile from NIF. I believe there are other, cheaper ways
to get this job done and I think that it is time to go back to the drawing
board and find a new path forward."

Senator Tom Harkin:

"As many of my colleagues are aware, this is a deeply troubled program. The
General Accounting Office recently issued a report that detailed management
turmoil, cost overruns, slipping schedules, and unsolved technical
problems. I am deeply concerned that we will pour more and more money into
NIF, money that could be used for other scientific purposes. NIF appears to
be mostly a jobs program for nuclear weapons scientists.

"We have had a lot of problems with NIF. They have repeatedly tried to hide
the true costs of the project. In fact, DOE and lab officials told GAO that
they deliberately set an unrealistically low initial budget because they
feared Congress would not fund a realistic one... They lied to us. They
simply lied to us. They admitted it to GAO. Now they want more money. Is
this what we reward?

"So what is this NIF? Why is it necessary?... It may be true that NIF would
provide useful data for simulating nuclear weapons explosions. But we don't
need that data to maintain the nuclear weapons we have today. For decades,
we have assured the safety and reliability of our nuclear weapons with a
careful engineering program... We don't need a $4 billion facility at
Lawrence Livermore to do what we are doing right now. We can and will
continue these surveillance activities of our stockpile.

"The kind of detailed information on nuclear explosions that NIF could
provide is needed only to modify weapons or design new ones. But we don't
need to design any new nuclear weapons. ...but that is what they intend to
do with it. ...NIF may itself be a proliferation threat."

-- From the statement of Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on September 7, 2000 on
the floor of the Senate to introduce the amendment to limit funding for the
construction of the National Ignition Facility.

Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA USA 94550

<http://www.igc.org/tvc/> - is our web site, please visit us there!

(925) 443-7148 - is our phone
(925) 443-0177 - is our fax

Working for peace, justice and a healthy environment since 1983, Tri-Valley
CAREs has been a member of the nation-wide Alliance for Nuclear
Accountability in the U.S. since 1989, and is a co-founding member of the
Abolition 2000 global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the
U.S. Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the Back From the Brink
campaign to get nuclear weapons taken off hair-trigger alert.

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