Reading Room

Trump Budget Intensifies Nuclear Risks, Here’s How You Can Help

Thursday, May 17, 2018
Posted by Scott Yundt

Call Congress While Tri-Valley CAREs is in Washington, DC

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request to Congress rolled out from the Dept. of Energy (DOE) this spring. The federal fiscal year starts on October 1.

This article contains a summary of some of the key budget numbers, followed by our recommendations for action before Congress appropriates any money to fund it. We ask you to make calls on May 21, 22, or 23, while we will be in DC conducting meetings on these and related topics. The capitol switchboard number is at the end of this summary.


The FY19 budget request contains $30.6 billion for all of the DOE’s programs, including Science, Energy Efficiency and Renewables, Electricity Delivery, Environmental Management (cleanup) and others. More than half of DOE’s requested funding, at $15.1 billion, is solely for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This represents an increase of $2.2 billion (17%) over the previous annualized spending level for NNSA.

Congress recently passed a massive FY18 increase for NNSA as part of an “omnibus” spending spree that busted the budget caps. That action raises the NNSA current year funding to $14.5 billion. Still, the request for NNSA in the coming year (FY19) exceeds even that profligate increase by another $600 million!

Within NNSA, the FY19 “Weapons Activities” budget line gets $11 billion, including $4.7 billion for “Directed Stockpile Work”. This budget line principally funds four Life Extension Programs, which are putting new military capabilities into warheads and bombs that make the world more dangerous.


1. The big winner in the FY19 funding request is Livermore Lab’s program to create a new nuclear tip for a new air-launched cruise missile under development by the Pentagon. This is called the Long-Range Stand Off weapon (LRSO) - meaning a pilot would be able to “stand off” from a target by thousands of miles and launch what is essentially a radar-evading nuclear sneak attack. Its new nuclear tip is called the W80-4.

The FY19 funding to create the W80-4 warhead triples, from less than $219 million to $655 million. According to NNSA, annual funding for the W80-4 will rise to more than $800 million a year in FY22. The LRSO represents a first-strike capability that is fueling a perilous new arms race. Tri-Valley CAREs recommends cancelling this new warhead and missile, saving at least $30 billion in treasure and, potentially, millions of lives.

2. The B61-12 bomb is slated for deployment at 6 bases in 5 NATO countries as well as at 4 bases in the U.S. The new bomb and tail kit will create a wholly new “smart” capability; the first ever placed in a gravity dropped nuclear weapon. The B61-12 gets an increase from about $612 million to $794 million in FY19. Its first production unit is scheduled to roll off the assembly line in March 2020.

The B61-12’s forward deployment in NATO will ring Russia, a provocative situation that has not gone unnoticed. The U.S. should forego deploying nuclear bombs in NATO. Worth noting is that there is no NATO cost sharing agreement for the B61-12; the U.S. is footing the bill. This new nuclear bomb should neither be produced nor deployed, especially outside U.S. borders.

3. We were instrumental in convincing the Obama Administration to place a 5-year hold on a novel “interoperable” warhead design. A decision on its development had been due in FY20. Consistent with Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, this novel warhead is back, and there is $53 million to jump-start its early development in the FY19 budget request.

Originally, the so-called “interoperable” warhead was supposed to sit atop both a land-based ICBM and a sub-launched ballistic missile, replacing the W88 warhead. However, as Tri-Valley CAREs and Nuclear Watch New Mexico revealed to Congress, the Navy did not want a new design. The cost is unknown, potentially astronomical, and there are technical uncertainties that could impact certification, noted the Navy. Further, weapons scientists have warned us that design changes planned by Livermore, which has been designated as the “lead lab” to create this novel warhead, may push the U.S. to resume nuclear explosive testing underground in Nevada.

The Navy has not changed its mind. You might think, then, that the warhead concept is dead. It is not. The Trump Nuclear Posture Review refers to the new design as the W78 (ICBM-launched) “warhead replacement” and states a wish that it also launch on a Navy missile making it interoperable at some vague point in the future. Meanwhile, the NNSA still calls it the “interoperable warhead” in its FY19 budget request. Importantly, the name placed on design of a novel nuclear warhead is not the point. By whatever name one calls it, this is a risky departure from previous designs that may precipitate U.S. nuclear explosive testing. It should not be pursued. Tri-Valley CAREs recommends that Congress zero out all FY19 funding for this technically risky and novel warhead.

4. A proposed, novel low-yield variant makes this existing Life Extended warhead more “usable” and hence more dangerous. The fourth major Life Extension Program in the NNSA’s FY 19 request is for the W76-1, which is scheduled to wrap up in FY19 at a cost of more than $100 million for the year. What’s notable here is not the end of this LEP, but, rather, a paragraph slipped into the W76-1 budget justification that references another new nuclear warhead that is part of the Nuclear Posture Review, i.e., a low-yield submarine-launched warhead.

This low-yield variant is dubbed the W76-2. The NNSA has no funding listed for a W76-2 in its FY19 request. However, the White House has very recently sent Congress an “amendment” to its FY19 budget request asking for money to create the new W76-2. Congress should vote it down.


1. The new nuclear weapons production facilities that would build the new warheads are also highlighted in the NNSA’s FY 19 Weapons Activities request. In particular, plutonium bomb core activities, called plutonium sustainment, get a hefty raise from $184 million to $361 million. The “need” for production of 80 or more plutonium cores each year (instead of the current capacity of around 20) is driven largely by the new-design interoperable warhead, by whatever name it is given. Congress should not fund any increase for plutonium bomb core activities. Moreover, there is a NNSA plan – but no actual need – to use the Savannah River Site in SC to produce new bomb cores in addition to the Los Alamos Lab in NM. This, too, should be nipped in the bud.

2. The FY19 budget request bumps up funding for a new Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Y-12 in TN, from $663 million to $703 million. The UPF is intended to produce new nuclear weapons “secondaries.” Instead of funding a new facility, Congress should examine the role that new nuclear weapons designs contribute to the “need” for a UPF of this size and budget (slated to be completed for $6.5 billion, but costing much more when all aspects of the program are considered).

3. The FY 19 budget request for NNSA Weapons Activities’ Inertial Confinement Fusion “ignition and high yield” program is slated for a $100 million decrease, of which $41 million will come from the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore Lab, according to the Preliminary Laboratory Tables released in mid-March. The Trump Administration should be lauded for taking this step. However, the Lab is already putting pressure on Congress to increase funding for NIF. Congress should remember that the facility with “ignition” as its middle name has not achieved and will never reach that goal. Funding for NIF should not be increased.

In short, with the welcome exception of NIF funding, its raining money at NNSA for the development of new warheads and bomb plants in alignment with Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review (see In sharp contrast, the NNSA is requesting less than $1.9 billion in FY19 for its Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, including for funds to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.


The public has a window of opportunity this spring to make its voice heard in Congress. More than 40 influential members of Congress recently sent a letter to Donald Trump expressing opposition to the Nuclear Posture Review. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations committee through which the nuclear weapons budget must pass, has already begun pushing back on Trump’s nuclear excesses. They are listening. Will you call?

Remind your Senators and Representative that policies outlined in the Nuclear Posture Review can’t move forward without funding. And, the FY19 budget is where Congress can cut these programs.

Use this article to specify where funds can be cut. Call the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. At each office, ask for the defense aide. Be focused (other topics warrant another call). Let the aide know you wish to be kept informed of any action taken by his or her boss. Say “thank you” (it goes a long way).

Thank you for making these important calls! Timed to coincide with our meetings with Congress on May 21, 22, and 23, your voice will amplify the message we will be carrying in DC – Fund the cleanup of existing contamination in the nuclear weapons complex, not proliferation-provocative new warheads and bomb plants that lead us toward nuclear use rather than the true security of a nuclear weapons free world.