Reading Room

An Overview of “Brand New” Nukes and the Budget

Monday, February 12, 2017
Posted by Marylia Kelley

Today, while his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget for nuclear weapons was being delivered to Congress, President Trump boasted: "We're increasing arsenals of virtually every weapon… We will have a nuclear force that will be absolutely modernized and brand-new.”

The Department of Energy (DOE) is the cabinet-level agency in charge of US nuclear weapons and the cleanup of contamination that comes with them, along with other programs. The DOE FY19 budget request is $30.6 billion.

The DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is the big budget winner. The President’s FY19 request provides $15.1 billion to create new and modified nuclear warheads and the bomb plants to build them in alignment with the recently released Nuclear Posture Review. This represents an increase of $2.2 billion (17%) over the current profligate annual spending level for NNSA.

Within NNSA, the “Weapons Activities” budget line gets $11 billion, which is an almost 20% increase over the current enacted level. And, “Directed Stockpile Work” is slated to get a 40% increase, from $3.3 billion to $4.7 billion.

And, Naval Reactors get $1.8 billion, a $369 million increase. In sharp contrast, NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account gets just under $1.9 billion, or $17 million less than its current budget.

In short, it’s raining money at NNSA for the development of new and modified nuclear warheads and bombs under the rubric of “modernization”. Not so much in NNSA's non-proliferation budget.

There are only two standout victories in the top line numbers; both are in the NNSA budget. One, the Trump Administration is continuing Obama’s attempts to kill the mixed oxide plutonium fuel program (MOX) at the Savannah River Site. And, the weapons activities’ Inertial Confinement Fusion program gets a $100 million cut, which will presumably mean cuts to the National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab.

How do other parts of DOE fare in the FY19 budget request? Here is a thumbnail sketch.

DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, which is charged with cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex, gets a total of $6.6 billion, which is essentially flat funding when you consider last year’s $6.5 billion request. This is not sufficient to keep pace with cleanup agreements and milestones.

The budget request for the DOE Office of Science is a bit under $5.4 billion, about the same as the present budget. Energy (remember, this is called the Department of Energy) gets $2.5 billion, of which a sparse $696 million is for energy efficiency and renewables.

In the DOE budget, the devil is always in the details. And the DOE detailed budget request is NOT public. We emailed DOE Headquarters on Monday, and we were told that the agency would post its detailed budget documents sometime over the next two weeks. There is no excuse for this lateness.

Please check our website at for updates and more analysis as soon as the numbers are available.