Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Budget Request and Plan, FY2005-FY2009 [Updated April 9, 2004]   [open pdf - 61KB]

Nuclear earth penetrator weapons burrow into the ground some tens of feet before detonating, greatly increasing their ability to destroy hardened underground targets. The United States currently has one type of nuclear earth penetrator, the B61-11 bomb, but that weapon cannot penetrate certain types of terrain in which hardened underground facilities may be located. Accordingly, the Air Force and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are studying a more effective penetrator, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP), a highly controversial and tenuous endeavor. Congress debated this issue at length in 2003. In that year, the Secretary of Defense stated that RNEP was a study. NNSA's FY2005 budget document, however, shows RNEP funding increasing sharply after FY2005, for a 5-year total of $484.7 million, should the weapon proceed beyond the study phase. NNSA states that no decision has been made to proceed with RNEP and that out-year figures are shown to meet congressionally-mandated budgeting requirements and are not a request. There are additional cost elements beyond the $484.7 million, but a total cost estimate must await completion of a cost study, to be completed in late FY2006. RNEP requests are subject to congressional approval, rejection, or modification. This report explains the budget request and provides further details on the plan.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32347
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