A $67.5 million payment by a major nuclear weapons contractor to settle claims that it illegally spent federal funds is the latest in a series of settlements stemming from allegations that firms making bombs and cleaning up the resulting debris are using federal money improperly to win support for continued weapons-related work.
Altogether, the three companies that have made such settlement payments since 2013 are involved in the operation of six of the eight active sites in the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program. Actions by the Energy Department’s contractors — including any misspending — have substantial impact, since contract work consumes roughly 90 percent of the department’s total budget.
The lobbying activities at the heart of the latest settlement helped one of the contractors win a $45 million award for additional cleanup work. Although work on energy generation and consumption garners more public attention and President-elect Donald Trump has nominated an oil-state politician — former Texas governor Rick Perry — to become the department’s new top manager, such nuclear weapons-related work accounts for nearly two-thirds of all the department’s activities.