Defense bill would give Pentagon power over Energy’s nuclear arms budget

It does not, she said, give the Pentagon veto power over the atomic arms agency’s weapons budget.

The Senate committee’s proposal, though, would mandate that the Pentagon’s Nuclear Weapons Council, a group of senior civilians and top officers involved in nuclear programs, must approve the “funding levels and initiatives” in the annual NNSA budget before it goes to the White House.

The president would have final say on the budget that is sent to Congress, but, crucially, the Pentagon would have the last word on what is presented to the president.

“That is unprecedented in national security budgeting,” said Mark Cancian, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, referring to the requirement for Nuclear Weapons Council approval of the DOE budget. “It increases the influence of nuclear advocates,” said Cancian, who formerly oversaw nuclear weapons and other defense programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the committee’s top Democrat, said in a June 26 letter to Inhofe obtained by CQ Roll Call that they are “alarmed” by how little they were consulted on the issue and want to see the provision struck from the bill while a new approach is crafted.