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House Appropriations Leader Urges Weapons Lab Changes

August 23, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 34

Strong criticism of the Department of Energy's weapons labs was voiced by the head of the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls the labs' budget during a recent presentation before a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel. Although supporting the technical skills and dedication of lab staff, Rep. David L. Hobson (R-Ohio) said that his visits to DOE labs had shown him the "ultimate in white-collar welfare." The visits, he continued, were "like stepping back in a time capsule" with business practices "two decades behind the times." He warned that the "glory days" of weapons complex spending were over and said he strongly opposed funding for new nuclear weapons research programs proposed by the Bush Administration. He stressed, however, his continued support for the weapons stockpile maintenance program but at much reduced levels. He also backed modernization of the weapons complex, but modernization, he said, should reflect a limited role for nuclear weapons in a post-Cold War world. "We have too many unmet conventional defense needs in the present day to afford spending more than $6 billion annually to support a large and antiquated nuclear weapons complex," he said. He urged a reassessment of the role of the labs and nuclear weapons in today's world and expressed doubt that a nuclear stockpile is useful against the U.S.'s new foes. DOE officials also speaking before the NAS committee took issue with Hobson's characterization of the labs and mission.


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