Merkley, Feinstein Lead Senators in Calling for Greater Nuclear Security and Nonproliferation Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Citing the dangers to U.S. national security posed by terrorists and rogue states seeking nuclear weapons, a bipartisan group of 26 senators sent a letter last week to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Shaun Donovan, calling on the President to support increased funding in the FY2016 budget to more rapidly secure and permanently dispose of nuclear and radiological materials. The letter comes in response to the President’s proposals in recent years to decrease funding for nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs.

The senators indicated that unsecured nuclear material poses unacceptably high risks to the safety of Americans and argued that the rate at which nuclear and radiological materials are secured and permanently disposed of must be accelerated. The senators expressed concern that cutting funds would slow what has been a successful process of elimination and reduction of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium in the international community. In just the last five years, nuclear security and non-proliferation programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) have proven successful in eliminating HEU and separated plutonium from 13 countries, including Ukraine.

“Reducing budgets for agencies and programs that help keep nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists is out of sync with the high priority that the President has rightly placed on nuclear and radiological material security and signals a major retreat in the effort to lock down these materials at an accelerated rate,” the senators wrote. “The recent spate of terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan, and Kenya is a harrowing reminder of the importance of ensuring that terrorist groups and rogue states cannot get their hands on the world’s most dangerous weapons and materials.” 

In the past two fiscal years, Congress has enacted $280 million additional dollars to the President’s proposed funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) core non-proliferation activities.

The senators noted that the chamber’s Energy and Water bill for fiscal year 2015 increased funding for key programs beyond the President’s request, allocating an additional $136 million for the GTRI, $50 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program, and $33 million for research and development. They requested that the President support those levels in his FY 2016 Senate Energy and Water budget request.

Led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the letter was also signed by: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tom Udall (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Lamar Alexander (R-TN),  Angus King (I-ME), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

A full copy of the signed letter can be found by downloading the pdf to the right.