Not Enough Money Spent on Nuclear Fleet

Published Jul 11, 2014 7:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

Fighting back at repeated budget cuts to its nuclear power budget requests, two of the US Navy’s top leaders warned Congress on Monday that the cuts can’t go on.

“This approach is no longer sustainable,” wrote Admiral Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations, and Admiral John Richardson, commander of Naval Reactors (NR), the entity responsible for all aspects of the Navy’s nuclear power program. They sent the letter to chairmen and ranking members of multiple house and senate committees.

“The persistent cuts have put NR in the position of being unable to provide for a safe and reliable nuclear fleet, design and test the reactor plant for the Ohio Replacement Program, and safely and responsibly manage aging infrastructure and the facilities for processing naval spent nuclear fuel,” Greenert and Richardson wrote.

At issue are more proposed cuts to NR’s portion of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) 2015 budget request. NNSA’s budget includes naval reactors, nuclear weapons activities and defense nuclear nonproliferation.

Over the past four years, Greenert and Richardson wrote, Congress has funded the account a total of $450 million below the budget requests. Another cut this year of $162 million would bring the total cuts to more than $600 million.

“These shortfalls have resulted in delaying the construction of needed facilities, effectively halting research and development, and deferring procurement of equipment needed to address emergent fleet issues,” Greenert and Richardson wrote.

As reported out June 20 by the House Appropriations Committee, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015 cuts the total NNSA request by $296 million, to $11.4 billion.

NR’s portion is $1.2 billion, $162 million below the budget request.

While not calling out the 2015 budget request, the House Appropriations Committee, in its June report accompanying the bill, said it “remains concerned about the high year-to-year increases that NR is using for its programmatic planning basis in future years. In order to carry out its plans, NR’s out-year budgets would need to grow dramatically, an unlikely scenario considering the current fiscal environment.”

The committee directs NR to conduct a multi-year review of requirements “to better understand how funding levels below its five-year projections might impact its long-term strategies.”

Greenert’s spokesman, Captain Danny Hernandez, noted that, “with further cuts we can’t continue to sustain fleet support and new programs at the same time.” The submarines and aircraft carriers of the nuclear-powered fleet, he said, continue to be safe despite being funded below stated needs.

“Rest assured, today’s nuclear fleet is operating safely and reliably,” he said.

Copies of the letter were sent to the chairman and ranking members of the House Appropriations and Armed Services committees, the House Energy and Water Appropriations and Defense Appropriations subcommittees, and the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees.