Esper: Cuts to Nuclear Programs Threaten Modernization of US Arsenal

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is cautioning against cutting funding from nuclear programs, Politico reports.

According to Politico’s Morning Defense newsletter, the House proposes slashing billions of dollars that go toward nuclear programs. To prevent that from happening, Esper and Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord are warning the cuts would “jeopardize efforts to modernize the U.S. arsenal,” according to Politico.

Last week, Esper outlined his concerns in a letter to Senate Armed Services Chair Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. The letter noted that the proposed nearly $2 billion cut from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s fiscal 2021 budget requested by the House Appropriations Committee “would do grave damage to the nuclear deterrent mission.”

“A cut of this magnitude would prevent NNSA from delivering on its nuclear modernization commitments and jeopardize DoD and [the Energy Department and] NNSA’s shared efforts to deliver the capabilities needed to maintain our national nuclear deterrent,” Esper and Lord wrote.

Lord, in a separate letter to Inhofe on Tuesday, also warned the cuts would delay nuclear modernization programs.

The nuclear weapons portfolio was discussed during committee hearing on Thursday. Inhofe shared Esper’s opposition to several nuclear weapons provisions in the House-passed spending bill. Inhofe also claimed that Energy Department personnel have worked to undermine the NNSA, Politico reports.

A House Democrat aide, meanwhile, dismissed Inhofe and Esper’s criticism of the chamber’s approach to nuclear weapons funding.

“This is a transparent attempt to bolster Senator Inhofe’s fixation on giving the Defense Department the final say over NNSA’s budget,” the aide told Politico. “There is clearly very little support for this approach, and these letters won’t change that.”

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