Blog Post - Nuclear Security Matters

Culp Provides New Details on Nonproliferation Budget Cuts

May 30, 2014

By Nickolas Roth

Despite making reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism one of his signature issues, President Obama has proposed budget cuts that would cause delays in core nuclear security programs.  David Culp, who works for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, recently wrote an excellent article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that addresses this issue and provides interesting new details.

He points out that, embarrassingly, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee was more generous than the Obama administration’s request for two key nonproliferation programs, the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and nonproliferation research and development.

(He does not mention that the committee also proposed gutting the budget for International Material Protection and Cooperation, another key nuclear security program, and prohibiting nuclear security cooperation with Russia. You can read more details on that here.)

The piece also tells the compelling story of how the Obama administration ended up increasing nuclear weapons spending at the expense of nuclear security programs:

Under President Obama's proposed FY 2015 Budget, nuclear security programs, like the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, would see their funding cut. (NNSA photo)

“In early 2014, as the administration was in the final stages of preparing its budget request for fiscal 2015, Pentagon officials objected to what they said was inadequate funding for the nuclear weapons programs overseen by the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and acting NNSA Administrator Bruce Held stood their ground, defending the proposed funding level, so Pentagon officials then appealed to the White House. The nonproliferation coordinator on the National Security Council, Liz Sherwood-Randall, and the Office of Management and Budget director, Sylvia Burwell, sided with the Pentagon and directed the NNSA to increase the nuclear weapons account. In short, Moniz got rolled by Obama’s advisors. With tight spending caps in place throughout the government and time running out to finalize the budget, Moniz and Held were forced to raid the nonproliferation accounts to beef up funding for nuclear weapons.”

Ultimately, the point of the piece is that the Obama administration should not be cutting nonproliferation programs in order to pay for nuclear weapons programs. As Culp writes in the article, “If Obama really wants to lower the danger of loose nukes, as he says he does, his administration will have to restore nonproliferation funding.”  Failing that, Congress will have to act.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Culp Provides New Details on Nonproliferation Budget Cuts.” Nuclear Security Matters, May 30, 2014,