Here's a follow-up to our recent story on Obama's sort-of-plan to move control of the US nuclear weapons complex from the Department of Energy to the Pentagon, and
Via US Sen. Jeff Bingaman's Office, a letter from New Mexico's Congressional delegation to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag opposing the move:
"For decades, Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories have strongly supported the civilian mission of maintaining our nation's nuclear stockpile - a mission that was first envisioned with the passage of Atomic Energy Act of 1946. We believe that civilian control of our stockpile recognizes the crucial differences between nuclear weapons and conventional military munitions. Shifting to military control could be a dangerous precedent, causing other nuclear weapons states, such as Russia and China, to do the same."
Hm..."Could" is the operative word, there.
The delegation also told Orszag that the labs' multiple missions have helped foster a creative environment that keeps our nation's top scientists and engineers engaged ... [blah blah blah] This research has not only helped our government meet its needs, some of it has also been commercialized to create high-tech jobs in our state," they wrote.
Finally, the delegation said that moving the laboratories from DOE to DOD would jeopardize President Obama's desire to work toward a nuclear free world. They said they feared that under DOD control, general science funding for the laboratories likely would decline, which in turn would put at risk the labs' ability to verify and certify the nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing. Absent that capability, the delegation is concerned that the United States would have to revert to nuclear testing, giving other nations the go-ahead to test as well, and endangering the prospects for passage of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Follow that logic? The Pentagon would cut the labs' science budget, therefore they'd have no choice but to start setting off nuclear weapons again, which would lead to an international incident.
The rest after the cut.
The delegation acknowledged to Orszag that there are problems with the current structural relationship between NNSA and DOE.
"However, we believe that the appropriate time for such a review is at the conclusion of the Nuclear Posture Review, due out in January 2010," they wrote. "In the meantime, we urge the Office of Management and Budget to withdraw its directive to study moving the NNSA laboratories to DOD."