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Senate bill would redo N.M. nuclear laboratories

The U.S. Senate on Friday sent to President Barack Obama a final version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment from Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to overhaul the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The NNSA is the federal agency overseeing New Mexico’s nuclear laboratories.

The bill would approve more than $633 billion in federal defense spending, including funding for the nation’s military bases and national labs.

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For New Mexico, the approved spending sets aside $126 million for military base construction projects and $70 million for infrastructure improvements at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A final version of the defense spending bill was passed by the U.S. House on Thursday. The Senate action Friday sends the legislation to Obama’s desk for approval.

Obama has said he planned to veto the bill over language related to rights of military detainees. The legislation, however, was passed in the House and Senate by majorities large enough to override a presidential veto.

Udall’s amendment to the defense authorization would create an advisory panel to evaluate the work of the NNSA. “In light of cost overruns, security breaches and management issues over the last few years, this study is an important first step to improve the scientific work, safety and employee retention at our national laboratories,” Udall said Friday.

The Senate vote to approve the legislation was 81-14. Both Udall and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., voted for the bill.

The House passed the same legislation 315-107 on Thursday. All three New Mexico members — Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M. — voted for the legislation.

Distributed by MCT Information Services
 

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