ICYMI: SASC Chairman Inhofe Remarks at SASC Department of Energy Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this morning at a SASC hearing to receive testimony on the Department of Energy’s atomic energy defense programs.

Witnesses included the Hon. J. Richard Perry, Secretary of Energy; and the Hon. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. 

As prepared for delivery:

Good morning. The committee meets today to receive testimony on the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the Department of Energy’s atomic energy defense activities. I’d like to welcome our witnesses, Rick Perry and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty.

This Committee’s top priority is to support the effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy. The NDS Commission made it clear that maintaining nuclear deterrence is required. In the years since the Cold War ended, Russia and China have increasingly prioritized nuclear programs—while our lack of focus on nuclear weapons has put us in danger of falling behind.

We heard a few weeks ago from General Hyten at STRATCOM about the need to modernize our nuclear triad, and as he mentioned, that includes the Department of Energy’s warheads and infrastructure.

Secretary Perry, about three quarters of your Department’s fiscal year 2020 budget request is in this committee’s purview and will help us continue this vital work.

I was pleased to hear that the NNSA recently assembled the first W76-dash-2 low-yield warhead, which was recommended by the Nuclear Posture Review and authorized by Congress last year. This is an excellent example of how responsive the nuclear enterprise should be—from requirement to production in just a year. We need more of that flexibility.

But we can’t be responsive when half of our facilities are more than 40 years old and a quarter date back to World War II—we need to modernize infrastructure across the complex. I was disappointed to learn that we have workers in buildings with chunks of concrete falling off the ceiling, and flooding damaging rooms and expensive equipment that can’t be quickly repaired. I’ve handed out some pictures to show you all how bad it really is.

We owe it to the men and women who work across the nuclear enterprise to provide state-of-the-art, 21st century facilities to work in. I’m glad to see that the Department is requesting substantial funding for infrastructure modernization, and I hope we can maintain the bipartisan consensus to fund this work in the future.

I look forward to your testimony on these and the rest of the Department of Energy’s national security priorities. Senator Reed.