A defense authorization bill passed Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives renews the Office of River Protection in Richland through 2019.
The $662 billion package passed in a 283-136 vote only after last-minute changes placated the White House and ensured President Obama's ability to prosecute terrorist suspects in the civilian justice system, reported The Associated Press.
The bill authorizes the budget authority for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.
But Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., added a provision extending the Office of River Protection's authority to oversee the Hanford site's Waste Treatment Plant and tank farms.
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"In order to function properly, the ORP site manager must have the authority to oversee WTP and the tank farms and requires a direct line to the assistant secretary for Environmental Management," Hastings said in a statement. "This provision will help provide both certainty and accountability to a complex and critical cleanup project."
Hastings' amendment also requires DOE to notify Congress of any changes to the office's responsibilities or reporting structure in order to ensure full transparency,a news release said.
Scott Samuelson, manager of the Office of River Protection, praised Hastings' work on the amendment.
"The safe cleanup of Hanford's tank waste is one of the highestpriorities for the Department of Energy," Samuelson said in a statement. "The Department appreciates the congressman's efforts and collaboration with his colleagues in Congress to provide continued support to the Office of River Protection's tank waste cleanup mission at Hanford."
Hastings created the office in 1998 to focus on complex tank waste issues, while the DOE Richland Operations Office continued to focus on all other Hanford issues.
The defense authorization bill is expected to pass the Senate today, and then will go to President Obama for his signature.
It was seen as a rare instance of bipartisanship in a bitterly divided Congress, said the AP. Highlighting a period of austerity and a winding down of decade-old conflicts, the bill is $27 billion less than Obama requested and $43 billion less than Congress gave the Pentagon, said the AP.
The bill also authorizes money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and national security programs in the Energy Department.
The legislation freezes $700 million for Pakistan until the defense secretary provides Congress a report about how Islamabad is countering the threat of improvised explosive devices, said the AP.
It would impose tough new penalties on Iran, targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with the country's central bank. The president could waive those penalties if he notifies Congress that it's in the interest of national security, said the AP.
The bill begins a reduction in defense spending, a reality the Pentagon hasn't faced in the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks, said the AP.
Pentagon spending nearly has doubled in that period, but the deficit-reduction plan that Obama and congressional Republicans backed this summer sets the Defense Department on a budget-cutting course.