Reading Room

The Department of Energy'S
Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Request
For Nuclear Weapons Activities

an analysis
by Dr. Robert Civiak
for Tri-Valley CAREs
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA 94550
(925) 443-7148

On February 7, 2000, the Department of Energy (DOE) sent its fiscal year (FY) 2001 Budget request to Congress. The DOE's 2001 Budget is scheduled to be debated in the House and Senate this spring, and voted on sometime this coming summer. This analysis covers the nuclear weapons portion of the DOE Budget request, explaining both what is new in this year's Budget request and how it compares to funding for similar weapons activities in the FY 2000 Budget.


Last year, Congress passed legislation to reorganize the Department of Energy's (DOE) defense nuclear activities into a "semi-autonomous," National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), within the Department. DOE's 2001 Budget request complies only partially with that legislation.

DOE has consolidated funding for the Offices of Defense Programs, Nonproliferation, Fissile Materials Disposition, and Naval Reactors Development in an overall request for the NNSA. It did not, however, include funding in NNSA for the Office of Defense Nuclear Counterintelligence or the Office of Defense Nuclear Security. Last year's legislation specifically established each of those Offices within the Administration. Nor has DOE included funding to conduct other functions that the legislation specifically assigns to the Administrator of the NNSA, including intelligence, procurement, legal matters, and legislative and public affairs. Funding for those functions are included elsewhere in the DOE budget.

It is impossible, however, to determine what portion of those budgets should be attributed to activities conducted for the NNSA. Even without reflecting full funding for nuclear security activities, the budget for the NNSA is nearly $6.2 billion.

  • The total request for the NNSA is $6.178 billion; an increase of $481 million (8.4 percent) over comparable activities in FY 2000.

  • The request for Nuclear Weapons Activities (i.e. the Stockpile Stewardship Program) is $4.594 billion, which is an increase of $273 million (6.3 percent) over comparable activities in FY 2000. Those figures reflect a transfer out of the Stockpile Stewardship Program of $106 million in funding for Emergency Response Management and Storage of Surplus Materials, which were previously counted as part of Stockpile Stewardship. Without the transfer of those funds, the 2001 request would have been $4.7 billion -- $200 million in excess of the Administration's pledge just two years ago to keep funding for Stockpile Stewardship at or below $4.5 billion per year.

  • The Administration is also requesting $55 million is supplemental funding for FY 2000 for Nuclear Weapons Activities. If that $55 million is added to the $273 million increase requested for FY 2001, the total funding increase for Stockpile Stewardship in this Budget request becomes $328 million, or 7.6 percent more than what Congress appropriated for comparable activities for FY 2000.


Within the total for Stockpile Stewardship:

  • The request for operating funds is $4.18 billion, which is an increase of $389 million (10.3 percent) over the comparable 2000 appropriation.

  • The request for construction activities is only $414 million, which is a decrease of $116 million (21.9 percent). The reduction is due to a cut of $173 million in the construction request for the National Ignition Facility (NIF). Funding for NIF is on hold while DOE "rebaselines" the project in response to major technical problems and cost overruns. The total cost of the NIF project is likely to increase by billions of dollars. (See box at end of report for NIF 2001 funding at a glance.)

DOE has introduced new categories for describing its 2001 budget. The three categories that comprise most of the funding for Stockpile Stewardship are:

  1. Directed Stockpile Work, where DOE claims to reflect all the direct costs of maintaining the safety, reliability and performance of the current nuclear weapons stockpile;
  2. Campaigns, which are largely activities to improve or expand upon existing capabilities to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile; and
  3. Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities, which is primarily the operating cost of the laboratories and production sites in the DOE weapons complex.

The Budget requests large increases over the comparable 2000 appropriation in each of the major categories. The Budget requests:

  • an increase of $83 million (11.0 percent) to $837 million for Directed Stockpile Work;

  • an increase of $129 million (16.1 percent) to $1.05 billion for Campaigns; and

  • an increase of $323 million (9.2 percent) to $1.954 billion for Readiness.

Within those categories, the sub-programs with the largest dollar or percentage increases include:

Program Request in millions Increase(M$ / %)
Advanced Strategic Computing Initiative $726 $101 /16%
Pit Manufacturing Readiness $108 38 / 54
Stockpile Evaluation $152 34 / 28
ICF Ignition Studies $121 21 / 21
Los Alamos Physics Facilities Ops (incl. DARHT) $75 19 / 33
NIF Facility Operations $53 18 / 50
Enhanced Surveillance $90 16 / 21
Primary Certification $41 12 / 40
Secondary Certification $53 9 / 19

While the Budget request for construction funds for 2001 is relatively low, it creates significant future funding requirements. In addition to the potential multi-billion dollar increase that will be needed to complete NIF, the Budget requests:

  • $23 million in initial funding for three new construction projects estimated to have a total cost of $177 million; and

  • $14.5 million to begin detailed design studies for another five projects that have preliminary cost estimates totaling $764 million. The latter figure is sure to increase, as final costs are generally substantially above preliminary estimates.

Among those new construction projects, the largest are estimated to cost:

  • $120 million for a HEU storage facility at the Oak Ridge, Tenn. Y-12 facility;

  • $400 million for a set of facilities for Microsystems Engineering at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico; and

  • $300 million for a Special Materials Complex at Y-12 for production of beryllium and lithium components.

The Budget also states that DOE will initiate a conceptual design study in FY 2000 to replace the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) building at Los Alamos National Laboratory. A replacement CMR Building would cost many hundreds of millions of dollars.


DOE has significantly revised the structure of the Budget for Stockpile Stewardship. The new format is both inscrutable and significantly distorts the funding requested for programmatic activities.

More than half of the operating budget is attributed to "Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities," which is primarily operation of facilities. In most cases, DOE has aggregated the operating costs of numerous facilities at each site that have entirely different functions. In some cases it even lumps together operating costs for facilities at more than one site.

No information is provided about the operating costs or the cost of conducting programmatic activities at facilities for which Congress and the public have shown great interest. For example, the Budget contains no information about the cost of maintaining facilities and conducting experiments at hydrodynamic testing facilities such as Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility (DARHT), Phermex, or the Contained Firing Facility; the cost of maintaining facilities and conducting experiments at pulsed power facilities, such as Z-facility or Saturn; or the cost of maintaining facilities and conducting subcritical tests at the Nevada Test Site.

DOE's separation of the cost of operating facilities from the programmatic activities carried out in those facilities significantly understates the cost of programmatic activities.

In particular, the total Budget request for evaluating and maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile, including all surveillance and testing of existing weapons and production and replacement of components to maintain the safety and reliability of the stockpile, is only $408 million.

Since this is the key mission of the Stockpile Stewardship program, one wonders what the other 90 percent of the Budget is needed for. This method of presentation flies in the face of legislation requiring agencies to align their Budget requests with performance measures for the program. DOE has targeted only 10 percent its Budget to the sole (purported) output of Stockpile Stewardship -- maintaining a safe and reliable the stockpile.

The Budget requests over $1 billion for seventeen separate "Campaigns," which are largely activities to improve or expand upon existing capabilities to maintain the nuclear weapons stockpile. The Budget includes little or no information demonstrating why these improvements are necessary for meeting the mission of maintaining the safety and reliability of the stockpile, nor does it justify the pace and timing of these campaigns.

DOE has not identified the costs of the facilities that will be used or the specific experiments or other activities that will be conducted under the campaigns, so there is no way to do an appropriate cost- benefit analysis of these proposed campaigns.

The Budget does not provide any information on the cost of maintaining or upgrading specific weapons systems. Rather than maintain the safety and reliability of each weapons system at their current level as called for by the President, DOE has embarked on an ambitious program to refurbish and upgrade all the weapons in the stockpile.

The Budget, however, provides no information that would allow the Congress or interested members of the public to determine the cost or the nature of the upgrades that DOE plans (either in the aggregate or on a weapon by weapon basis).

DOE is not finished making structural changes to the 2001 Budget. The Department is preparing a major amendment to the Budget that it submitted only weeks ago. One part of that amendment would separate all spending for security at DOE sites from the Budget requests for the programs conducted at those sites and place security funding in a separate account. That change will reduce the request for Stockpile Stewardship by about $450 to $500 million, which will further hide the full cost of maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile and complicate comparisons with previous year's funding.


Despite the inscrutable nature of DOE's 2001 Budget, it is possible to identify a few DOE proposals for programmatic or policy changes. The most significant change is a clear abandonment of prior pretense that DOE is maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile by correcting only age-related and other defects that arise in the stockpile.

Rather, the Budget reveals an aggressive program of research, development, design, engineering, and production for major improvements or replacements for every weapons system in the enduring stockpile.

In particular, the Budget proposes that DOE begin full-scale engineering development of new warheads to replace the W76 and the W80 warheads and to design a new canned secondary assembly and other components of the B61 bomb. DOE also has a major development program to manufacture new pits for the W88 warhead. During 2001 DOE will be installing major modifications to improve the performance of the B83 bomb and the W87 warhead. As noted above, however, the budget contains no specific funding information for these major development programs.

Other policy changes in the 2001 Budget include:

  • DOE plans to submit a new project baseline for the NIF to the Congress by June 1, 2000. The new baseline will delay completion of the project by several years and could add billions of dollars to its total cost. The 2001 Budget states that DOE plans to accommodate additional FY 2001 funding needs for the NIF, which result from the new baseline, within the budgets for DOE Defense Programs and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. While DOE has reportedly begun redirecting funds from other programs to NIF, those monies will be insufficient to fund the mega-laser project. If Congress does not provide increased funds for NIF, DOE would likely slow spending on the project in 2000 and use some of that savings in 2001. The rebaselining will almost certainly create a large unfunded budget requirement for 2002 and beyond.

  • DOE proposes to increase the funding for "Laboratory Directed Research and Development" from 4 percent to 6 percent of the total funding for Stockpile Stewardship at the weapons laboratories. This would increase from about $80 million to $120 million the amount of Defense Programs monies that the Directors of the weapons laboratories can spend on speculative research projects that have no clear contribution to programmatic activities.

  • In two separate places, the Budget announces a plan to initiate a shift in design responsibility for the W80 warhead from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It does not give a cost estimate for making that shift. In somewhat of a contradiction, the Executive Summary to the Budget states, "We have slowed efforts to transfer the work on the W80 from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is a longer term workload leveling measure."

  • The Budget announces DOE's plan to place the Atlas pulsed power facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory on cold standby in FY 2000. This facility was just completed in 1999 at a cost of $43 million.

Bob Civiak received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pittsburgh. From 1988 - 1999, he served a Program Examiner in the Energy and Science division of the federal Office of Management and Budget, where the DOE budget was within the scope of his responsibilities. He is currently completing an analysis of nuclear weapons "stewardship" options for Tri-Valley CAREs.
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The National Ignition Facility Fiscal Year 2001 Funding at a Glance

by Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs

NIF's costs in the 2001 Budget are hidden in other, larger categories with vague titles -- such as "readiness" (see the analysis above). Here are the costs that can be culled from the various Budget categories.*

  • $120.8 million -- NIF/ICF ignition studies
  • $74.1 million -- NIF construction at LLNL
  • $53.4 million -- NIF operations at LLNL
  • $47.4 million -- NIF infrastructure buildup at LLNL
  • $30 million (approx) -- NIF target fabrication support
  • $25 million (approx.) -- engineering and NIF facilities at LANL

TOTAL = $350.7 million dollars, and maybe more.

* Additionally, DOE is slated to "rebaseline" NIF on June 1, 2000, an activity that is expected to increase the NIF's overall Budget.

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