U.S. House passes bill including Savannah River Site pit production funding recommendation

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Jul. 15—The bill that would continue to fund the conversion of the former Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site into a plutonium pit production facility has taken another step forward.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 329-101 to approve the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday evening.

The National Defense Authorization Act is one component of how the Department of Defense receives its funding. The act serves to recommend funding levels and establishes the policies as to how the funding will be spent. It alternatively originates in the House or the Senate. This year, it was introduced by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith and referred to his committee.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., whose district includes most of the Savannah River Site, said the act builds upon the two-site solution for nuclear pit production by including full funding for ongoing operations at the Savannah River Site.

"It also establishes a framework to manufacture 80 war reserve plutonium pits with requirements for 30 pits at Los Alamos and 50 pits at the Savannah River Site," Wilson continued. "This is the best way to manage the cost, schedule and risk of such an important undertaking. As with every weapon, we must continue to invest in upgrades and improvements to our nuclear inventory."

Pits are an essential component of a nuclear weapon.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has announced plans to construct pits at the Savannah River Site and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. At the Savannah River Site, 50 pits per year would be built at the former MOX facility.

Wilson was one of 149 Republicans to join 180 Democrats in voting for the act.

He said he was grateful to have supported the act.

"It's a statement of unwavering support for America's men and women in uniform," Wilson said. "This bill pushes our military modernization further toward meeting our ongoing challenges, while mitigating the disaster of President Biden's unprecedented inflation."

He said the act improves the military's readiness and bolsters the national security strategy of peace through strength.

"As a veteran and father with four sons who have served in this nation's military, I am deeply committed to ensuring the Department of Defense has every available resource to deter our adversaries, support our allies, strengthen our communities, and, if necessary, fight and win against hostile aggressors," Wilson said.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., whose district includes Edgefield County and the southwestern part of the state, was one of 62 Republicans and 39 Democrats to vote against passage of the bill.

Duncan said on Facebook he voted against the act because the act weakens the Armed Forces by putting an emphasis on the woke agenda and ideology when it should instead be focused on strengthening national security.

He said the act fails to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for service members, fails to prevent the transfer of Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the U.S., allows for woke critical race theory in the name of diversity training and doesn't complete the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Duncan said the act threatens the Second Amendment by creating a pathway to mandatory gun storage, allows for military dollars to be spent towards awareness of embryo-destructive fertility treatments, weakens immigration standards, and furthers the "woke" agenda through gender analysis training in military schools, while requiring public companies to annually disclose the racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, and veteran status of their board directors, nominees, and senior executive officers to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He also said he sponsored nine amendments to the act including amendments to ban the closure of Parris Island and to prevent the Department of Defense from leasing federal land to abortion providers.

Smith said in a news release that the act includes a package of bold reforms to prevent and mitigate civilian harm in military operations.

"At a time when democracies worldwide face both old and new threats, the FY23 NDAA supports investments in what makes our country competitive around the world and strong at home: a diverse and talented military and civilian workforce; groundbreaking science and technology research, especially at Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and the alliances and partnerships we need to meet our biggest global security challenges," Smith continued.

He added he was especially pleased that the act supports those who defend the United States by giving them a 4.6% pay raise and relief for their housing and other everyday costs.

"Some will say the bill authorizes too much money for the Department of Defense. They're right," Smith said. "I supported President Biden's original budget request, and I staunchly opposed efforts to allow further increases in defense spending. But we don't always win every vote, even in a functioning democracy. And we shouldn't let the results of one vote outweigh all of the worthwhile things in this bill that we fought for."

The act also includes language acknowledging that the plan to produce 80 pits per year (50 at SRS and the remainder at Los Alamos) by 2030 is not achievable.

The bill will now move the U.S. Senate for consideration.

If approved by the U.S. Senate, it would go to President Joe Biden for a signature or veto.