By Douglas P. Guarino
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON – The
Senate on Friday approved a defense authorization bill for fiscal 2013
that would mandate construction of a new nuclear weapons laboratory and
storage facility in New Mexico but that lacks many other controversial
nuclear security provisions lawmakers considered earlier this year.
81-14 Senate vote on the of legislation followed House approval of the
latest version of the same bill on Thursday by a vote of 315-107. The
bill authorizes – but does not appropriate -- $527.5 billion in base
Defense Department spending, $88.5 billion for overseas operations, and
$17.4 billion for defense-related nuclear programs managed by the Energy
The bill now goes to the White House for the president’s signature.
chambers approved the measure without additional amendments to the
conference committee version that resolved differences between the House
and Senate defense bills.The legislation lacks many controversial
provisions House Republicans had originally sought to include, such as
limitations on the implementation of the New START nuclear arms control
treaty with Russia.
In addition, the bill does not include
controversial language limiting DOE oversight of its semiautonomous
National Nuclear Security Administration. Instead, a special
congressional panel would study whether the governing structure of the
U.S. nuclear weapons complex ought to be changed in the future.
legislation also does not authorize funds for construction of an East
Coast ballistic missile defense interceptor site, as some House
Republicans had sought. Rather, it requires the Defense Department to
study no fewer than three potential new sites, at least two of which
must be on the East Coast.
The bill eliminates funding for the
multinational Medium Extended Air Defense System, a battlefield system
meant to intercept threats including tactical or medium-range ballistic
missiles and aircraft.
Lawmakers did, however, mandate
construction of the New Mexico facility by 2026. The Obama
administration had sought to delay work on the new building, which is
part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at the
Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Also included is language
intended to spur domestic production of isotopes used in medical
diagnostic procedures without the use of highly enriched uranium, which
could be used to build a nuclear weapon if it fell into the wrong hands.
addition, it sets the stage for additional sanctions intended to
discourage Iran from pursuing a nuclear-weapon capacity, by designating
Tehran’s energy, port, shipping and shipbuilding sectors as “entities of
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