A former White House aide says the directors of the U.S. national laboratories “came forward” during closed-door budget-planning sessions five months ago to propose a delay in building a plutonium research facility, a plan that has since drawn Republican fire.

Circle_of_GovernanceLawmakers have taken great interest in what heads of the three main laboratories — Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia — think about the ramifications of delaying work on the $6 billion Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement plant because these institutions play a key role in overseeing the nuclear arsenal.

As the Obama administration was putting the final touches on its request for fiscal 2013 funds for the nuclear weapons complex, top officials fretted over the roughly $800 million in funding cuts already taken from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s 2012 budget, says Jon Wolfsthal. Until March, he was special adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden for nuclear security and nonproliferation and served on the National Security Council staff.

“It was the lab directors that came forward and said, ‘Because we’re concerned about the ability to fund this program and have it deliver on time, we’ve looked at it and think that there’s a way you can do the necessary sampling of plutonium work to allow us to have a certain pit production rates in the midterm, without having to build CMRR,'” said Wolfsthal, paraphrasing his understanding of the complex leaders’ recommendation.

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Source: Elaine M. Grossman | Government Executive