Everett Opening Statement for Hearing on the Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request for Atomic Energy Defense Activities

Mar 19, 2007
Press Release

Contact: Josh Holly-202.226.3988 

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Terry Everett (R-AL), Ranking Republican on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, released the following opening statement for today’s hearing on the Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for atomic energy defense activities:

“Thank you, Madam Chairman.  I join you in welcoming: National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Acting Administrator, Mr. Tom D’Agostino; Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management, Mr. Jim Rispoli and the director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Health, Safety and Security, Mr. Glenn Podonsky.

‘Thank you for your dedication and service, and please relay our gratitude to the hard-working men and women at DOE and NNSA.

“It has been a demanding year for DOE and NNSA.  I want to publicly thank Mr. D’Agostino.  This committee has a great deal of respect for Ambassador Brooks and in his absence we appreciate the leadership and continuity you have provided for NNSA and its workforce.

“I hope you will soon have some help at the helm.  Bill Ostendorff has served this Committee as counsel for over three years.   He has earned the respect of members across both sides of the aisle and personally, he has come to be one of my most trusted advisors.  While I hate to lose our colleague, I know NNSA will gain a man of great principle and integrity.

“I believe nuclear weapons will continue to play a role in our nation’s strategic deterrence for years to come.  And, as long as there are other countries in the world that seek to acquire and develop their own nuclear capabilities, we will need to stay one step ahead in our knowledge of how they work and how to prevent their proliferation.  This demands that we sustain our nuclear capability, infrastructure, and expertise for the foreseeable future.

“With the Cold War generation beginning to retire, we must also ensure that our capabilities and know-how does not retire with them.  This is why I look at initiatives like Complex Transformation and the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program as critically important to the long-term sustainability of our nuclear capabilities.

“The Fiscal Year 2008 budget request reflects a great deal of thought and hard work.  However, as we work through the authorization process, we have a responsibility to address some important issues that I would ask our witnesses to discuss today:

“Mr. D’Agostino, I would like to highlight a few areas that I am specifically interested in hearing about today:

  • “The way ahead for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program and specific activities planned in Fiscal Year 2008.  I want to thank you and General Cartwright for briefing the Chairman, myself, and our appropriations colleagues on RRW earlier this month.  The more you can do in communicating how RRW meets the objectives laid out by Congress in our 2006 authorization bill, the more informed our decision-making becomes.
  • “Progress being made to transform the nuclear weapons complex to achieve the responsive infrastructure required for the future.  And, the extent to which transformation of the complex is independent of specific RRW decisions.  It is my understanding that outyear funding for Complex Transformation is not included in this year’s budget request.  However, I would ask NNSA to come back to Congress once further details are developed and infrastructure decisions made.
  • “Lastly, progress in the consolidation and disposition of nuclear material, including the status of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Facility (MOX) project and the impact of the Continuing Resolution—not just on MOX but the larger security and financial costs of not consolidating nuclear materials in the near-term.

“Assistant Secretary Rispoli, I am specifically interested in hearing about the following:

  • “Progress in the disposition of special nuclear materials and radioactive tank waste.  Has a disposition path been identified for both high and low-level waste and is the technology mature for these disposition paths?
  • “Your involvement in complex transformation planning and execution.  Consolidation of nuclear materials across the complex is a key component of this transformation. 

“Mr. Podonsky, I am deeply troubled by the continued security breaches across the complex that compromise our nation’s national security.  I would like to hear your thoughts on:

  • “Federal oversight of security at the NNSA sites.  Are we making progress?  Do you have the personnel and resources to provide effective federal oversight?
  • “Your thoughts on how the Department approaches and implements the Design Basis Threat criteria and how the Department balances its investments in physical and cyber security.  Are we doing enough in the area of risk analysis to ensure that the taxpayers are getting a good return on each dollar invested for security?

“DOE and NNSA have some significant issues in front of them and all must be addressed within a relatively flat budget line.  Within this relatively flat-line, NNSA will start work on its RRW program, transform the nuclear weapons complex, continue non-proliferation efforts, consolidate and dispose special nuclear materials, and continue to provide the highest level of safety and security that our nation’s nuclear weapons demand.

“With that, I thank you for being with us today.”