President Obama's 2011 budget
eliminates funding for manned lunar expeditions
and rolls back tax breaks
for fossil-fuel companies and families bringing in more than $250,000 a year—all of which lends credence to what he told
the New York Times
“We simply cannot continue to spend
as if deficits don't have consequences, as if waste doesn't matter, as if the hard-earned tax money of the American people can be treated like Monopoly money.”
Defense, Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security and education are held harmless from such belt-tightening, though, and the US nuclear weapons program stands out
among those agencies slated to get increases—here, to the tune of $5 billion
more over the next five years. Los Alamos National Laboratory
alone gets a 21.6 percent (from $1.8 to $2.2 billion) budget increase
Read about what this means for New Mexico
after the jump.
Even though some of LANL's budget increases are for things like hydrogen and fuel cell technologies—$13.1 million, to be precise—the roughly $336 million increase in "total weapons activities" (not all of which
is strictly about weapons-building; ) seems to contradict Obama's State of the Union address
, in which he called nuclear weapons "perhaps the greatest danger to the American people."
"There hasn't been an increase like this since the Manhattan Project,
and it never translates into jobs," Greg Mello, director of the nonprofit nuclear disarmament group Los Alamos Study Group
, tells SFR. "The procurement of specialized materials and the hiring of staff [are] substantially from out of state," Mello adds. "Los Alamos is not well-connected to the New Mexico economy."
The lab declined to comment on its windfall, which Mello maintains will do little to help regular New Mexicans. Here's Mello again:
"If the DOE were to invest in energy rather than bombs in New Mexico, we could make literally tens of thousands of jobs
in the short run. It's a choice the Obama administration has made to fund wealthy contractors and high-paid scientists and engineers—a few of them—at the expense of hiring and building careers for the blue-collar craftsmen, technicians and engineers we need to build a sustainable infrastructure."
Mello apologized for his wordiness; "I'm just really mad," he said. "This represents a complete capitulation to Senate Republicans and hawks. This is a politically motivated increase."
That VP Joe Biden's op-ed
on the administration's nuclear weapons policy ran in the Wall Street Journal
last Friday could be seen as a confirmation of Mello's suspicions.
"For almost a decade, our laboratories and facilities have been underfunded and undervalued," Biden writes. More:
"The budget we will submit to Congress on Monday both reverses this decline and enables us to implement the president's nuclear-security agenda. ...State-of-the art facilities, and highly trained and motivated people, allow us to maintain our arsenal without testing. ...To achieve these goals, our budget devotes $7 billion for maintaining our nuclear-weapons stockpile and complex, and for related efforts. This commitment is $600 million more than Congress approved last year."
But Biden's op-ed itself comes on the heels of a Dec. 15 letter
sent by Senate Republicans to the President, urging that "funding for a [weapons] modernization program...begin...in earnest in your 2011 budget."
Obama's official nuclear policy is scheduled to be released this March
, and a treaty to replace START
(the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia) is said to be in the works. But if the Obama 2011 budget passes, at least some of LANL's rocket scientists will be sitting pretty.