Manchin-Cantwell NDAA Amendment to Protect Department of Energy Budget Authority Adopted Unanimously

Amendment addresses provisions that could have eroded civilian control over spending on nuclear arsenal, diverted billions from nuclear waste clean-up & other critical Energy Department programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment offered by U.S. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to fix troubling provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. The amendment ensures the Secretary of Energy retains final authority over the Department of Energy’s budget request and protects existing firewalls that ensure civilian control of spending on nuclear weapons development.

“We’re so glad that we were able to stop efforts to usurp civilian control of nuclear weapons spending and protect the Department of Energy’s funding for critical nuclear waste cleanup programs," Cantwell said.

The Manchin-Cantwell amendment, which was adopted by the Senate by unanimous consent, will:

  • Ensure the Secretary of Energy retains final authority over the Department of Energy’s budget request;
  • Protect existing firewalls related to civilian control of nuclear weapons development.  
  • Maintain the system of collaboration between the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) on budgeting for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA);
  • Promote transparency by attaching the NWC’s recommendation for the NNSA’s budget as an appendix to the final budget request submitted by the Secretary of Energy.

The amendment revises provisions that would have effectively transferred the Department of Energy’s civilian control of the NNSA’s budget to the Nuclear Weapons Council, which is overwhelmingly controlled by Department of Defense (DoD) leadership. Currently, DOD develops, deploys, and operates the missiles and aircraft that can deliver nuclear warheads, while NNSA oversees the R&D, testing, and acquisition programs that produce, maintain, and sustain the warheads.

That change could have allowed the Nuclear Weapons Council to insist on more spending for nuclear weapons, funding that would have to come out of the Energy Department's other programs, imperiling future funding for other critical DoE responsibilities, such as cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex, promoting scientific and technological innovation, managing our National Laboratories, and sponsoring basic research in the physical sciences.

The adoption of the amendment comes after Senator Cantwell led a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership and the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week opposing the changes. She also spoke twice on the Senate floor about the issue – the video of her remarks can be found HERE and HERE.

The text of Cantwell and Manchin’s amendment is available HERE.