WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the hearing titled “Oversight Review of Infrastructure Needs and Projects Ready for Immediate Implementation in the U.S. Nuclear Security Enterprise.” For hearing testimony and to watch the hearing live click here.
"I welcome our subcommittee members and witnesses testifying before us today. This is the capstone event of the Armed Services Committee’s briefing and hearing series regarding the nuclear weapons enterprise.
In connection with today’s hearing, I welcome the members of the full committee who are not permanent members of the subcommittee who are or will be attending, and I also want to recognize and thank the distinguished gentleman from Alabama, Chairman Rogers of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, for attending this hearing. I ask unanimous consent that these committee members be permitted to participate in this hearing with the understanding that all sitting subcommittee members will be recognized for questions prior to those not assigned to the subcommittee. Without objection(?), so ordered.
Many of the buildings, facilities, and laboratories of the U.S. nuclear weapons enterprise were constructed over 65 years ago in the 1940s and 1950s. These facilities currently have a backlog of deferred essential repairs, rehabilitation, and replacement construction totaling $3.7 billion dollars. Infrastructure needs of this magnitude, if not addressed, threaten both the mission of the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, its labs, and facilities, as well as the safety of its workers.
The House Armed Services Committee has made NNSA infrastructure needs a high priority in recent years. The Committee has previously authorized substantial increases in funding over President’s past budget requests. However, not until last year did the NNSA, under the direction of the last Secretary of Energy, halt growth in the deferred maintenance backlog. This is an important first step, because as the old saying goes, once you’re in a hole, stop digging.
The funding challenges for the nuclear enterprise infrastructure is two-fold. We need to keep the current infrastructure from deteriorating further. This is an expensive proposition, especially when we must also support day-to-day funding requirements. And, we also need to provide additional funding to start chipping away at the massive infrastructure backlog.
We also need to look at policy, regulation, or statute changes that can be implemented. We can do this without sacrificing critical Congressional oversight or for those that supervise projects within NNSA. There is an Above Threshold Reprogramming limit of $5 million dollars and a General Plant and Projects, or GPP, limit of $10 million dollars. We need to consider if such limits are still relevant in today’s fiscal environment. Perhaps they can be modified to more effectively and efficiently implement and oversee infrastructure projects.
Finally, we need to establish and maintain a transparent and open-dialogue about which funding mechanisms are most appropriately utilized. It is possible to exercise the normal “line-item” authorization and appropriations process, or use third-party, public-private partnership financing arrangements. And regardless of funding mechanism, we need to ensure that construction or recapitalization initiatives are not plagued with major cost over-runs and scope under-runs that many of NNSA’s large line-item projects in the past have experienced.
An exemplary model project NOT on the “bad-list” and one that was well-implemented using third-party, public-private partnership financing is one that I don’t mind bragging about from my home state of Missouri. The Kansas City National Security Campus project enabled rapid replacement of the previous dilapidated facility that was housed in a former World War Two era Navy aircraft engine manufacturing plant built in 1942.
In addressing the Kansas City infrastructure project, NNSA and the General Services Administration competitively selected Centerpoint-Zimmer, a private developer to replace the 70 year old Bannister Federal Complex. The 20 year lease on the new facilities not only provides a flexible responsive infrastructure that helps attract top talent, but also saves the taxpayer over $150 million dollars annually in lower facility maintenance, energy, and other costs. Additionally, this project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
Now the outstanding and professional workforce at the Kansas City campus today has a modern, clean, and safe environment in which to conduct their vital and unique work for our nuclear enterprise. This is the standard that we should all hope to achieve for our skilled and dedicated professionals throughout the entire nuclear enterprise if we hope to recruit, train, and retain the best of the best our scientific and engineering community has to offer.
I look forward to discussing the infrastructure needs of the enterprise with our distinguished panel of witnesses we have before us today."