ROME — The U.S. government’s nuclear warhead agency is scheduled to receive $15.1 billion in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2019 budget request, a 17.5 percent increase over the previous year’s request as the administration seeks to refresh and improve America’s nuclear arsenal.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous arm of the Department of Energy, has oversight on nuclear warhead development, production and security. This is the second year the NNSA was slated for a budget increase, although the FY18 request — $13.9 billion, an increase of 7.8 percent over the FY17 omnibus level — has yet to be enacted.
The Nuclear Posture Review, released Feb. 2, called for the development of two new nuclear weapons capabilities, as well as heavy investment in infrastructure to support the nuclear arsenal. But just how NNSA would do in the new budget, which has sometimes struggled with funding in comparison to the broader defense budget, was unclear.
Of the NNSA’s budget, just more than $11 billion are dedicated to weapons activity. The agency is currently doing a massive refresh on its warhead programs, which involves refurbishing and redesigning five warhead variants.
Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office has warned that NNSA is underfunded for its needs.
The funding will be welcomed by proponents of the NNSA, particularly after comments from the previous administrator, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, that his agency was “at capacity.”
Notably, the NNSA could be in line for another plus-up in the FY20 budget. Speaking during the NPR rollout, Steve Erhart, acting undersecretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator, said to expect “more fidelity in the budget request in the following year, FY20.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.