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Issue No. 51, October 2000

Congress Passes $310 Billion Defence Bill

On October 6, the conference committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives agreed a single version of the Fiscal Year 2001 Defense Authorization Bill. The text was subsequently approved by both Chambers (90-3 in the Senate on October 12; 382-21 in the House on October 10) and sent to the President for expected signature. Total budget funds approved were $305.4 billion, a $12 billion increase from the previous budget and $4.5 billion more than requested by the Administration. Aspects of the budget related to nuclear weapons and non-proliferation issues are summarised below.

'' Provision Weakened

The conference version watered down the controversial Warner-Allard Provision (Section 1018 of Senate bill S. 2549) concerning research into possible new means of destroying hardened and deeply buried targets - means widely interpreted as including, in the minds of the proposers, low-yield (five kilotons or less) nuclear weapons. See last issue for details.

The final language would terminate "limited research" into the issue on July 1, 2001, the final date for the submission of a report to Congress by the Defense and Energy Secretaries. The original provision also required a report to be submitted by that date, without identifying it as the end-point of the research programme. No funding for the research - which could commence no earlier than January 20, 2001 - is allocated. The Energy and Water Appropriations Bill proposed by the Senate did allocate $6 million to '' research. This provision, however, was deleted from the conference version.

Opponents of the provision expressed relief at its effective defusing. According to David Culp of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (October 16): "We' basically kicked the can down the road. It means, for next year, bad things are not going to happen." In Culp' estimate, a Gore Administration "probably wouldn' pursue" such research, whereas "a Bush Administration would likely continue" with it.

Unilateral Nuclear Reductions Ruled Out

The conference version unexpectedly deleted Senate language allowing the next President to reduce US strategic nuclear forces below START I levels (6,000 warheads) following - and assuming such a move was commensurate with - the completion of a nuclear posture review. The final language also calls for a nuclear posture review, but constrains the next President to maintain START I deployment levels until START ratification is complete. This rigidity, insisted on by the Republican Congressional majority, should, on the face of it, disturb the Republican, and reassure the Democratic, presidential candidate. Governor Bush has made clear his preference for unilateral reductions, following a review, considerably below START I, and even START II (3,500 warheads) levels, while Vice President Gore has expressed disapproval of any reductions outside the START process. However, many observers predict that if Governor Bush is elected and the Republicans regain control of Congress, the FY 2002 Defense Authorization Bill would be likely to include the leeway desired by the Executive.

The nuclear posture review, to be conducted by the Secretary of Defense, would be set the task of assessing strategy, planning and programming for the next 5-10 years. In the words of the legislation, the review should consider the relationship between US "nuclear deterrence policy, targeting strategy and arms control objectives", the "levels and composition of the nuclear delivery systems that will be required for implementing the national and military strategy, including any plans for replacing or modifying existing systems", and gauge the kind and scale of "nuclear weapons complex that will be required for implementing national and military strategy, including any plans to modernize or modify the complex." The results of the review should form, according to the bill, "the basis for establishing future arms control objectives and negotiating positions."

The review would be speedy, with submission coinciding with the next Quadrennial Defense Review in December 2001. The last review was completed in 1994, commending a deployed warhead level of 2,000-2,500, the current US target-range for START III.

Other Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Items

The conference version contained the following items related to nuclear weapons and missile defence:

Ballistic Missile Defence: $4.7 billion

  • National Missile Defence, $1.916 billion
  • Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), $550 million
  • Patriot PAC-3 Theatre Defence, $447 million
  • Navy Area Defence, $274 million
  • Navy Theatre Wide Defence, $383 million
  • Airborne Laser, $149 million
Strategic Nuclear Weapon Systems: $641 million
  • B-2 Bomber (continued work on 21 aircraft), $145 million
  • Trident II D-5 (12 new missiles), $496 million
Cooperative Threat Reduction Programme: $443.4 million, including:
  • Strategic offensive arms elimination in Russia, $177.8 million
  • Strategic nuclear arms elimination in Ukraine, $29.1 million
  • Warhead dismantlement in Russia, $9.3 million
  • Fissile materials storage facility in Russia, $57.4 million
  • Weapons storage security in Russia, $89.7 million
  • Elimination of weapons-grade plutonium in Russian nuclear reactors, $32.1 million
  • Biological weapons non-proliferation projects, $12 million
Department of Energy Atomic Energy Defence Activities (Nuclear Weapons programmes): $13 billion

Department of Energy Non-Proliferation Programmes: $573.5 million

Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA): $6.4 billion, including:

  • Defence Nuclear Non-Proliferation programmes, $877.5 million
  • National Ignition Facility, $135 million
  • Upgrading weapons production facilities, $75 million
  • Restoring Tritium Production, $25 million
  • Conceptual design of new plutonium production facility, $15 million
Reports: Conference Report for the Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2001, H.R. 5408 (Warner-Allard Provision), October 6, 2000, Friends Committee on National Legislation website (http://www.fcnl.org/issues/arm/minnukeindx.htm); Senate and House complete conference on National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2001, Senate Armed Services Committee Press Release, October 6; Authorizers call for comprehensive review of US nuclear posture, Inside the Pentagon, October 12; Senate approves $310 billion defense bill, Reuters, October 12; Fiscal Year 2001 military budget at a glance, Council for a Livable World website (http://www.clw.org/ef/dodbud01.html), October; Bill would give push to '', Philadelphia Inquirer, October 16.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.