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We Need Nuclear Weapons Budget Cuts

Posted by Dadie Loh on December 17, 2012

What better impetus to cut the nuclear weapons budget than the looming fiscal crisis?  If any budget cuts are to be made, our nuclear arsenal should be at the top of that list.  The world is at a grave risk due to the presence of nuclear weapons given the threat of use in war, accident, too short of a response time from a perceived threat or from actions of terrorists with stolen materials or bombs.

Nuclear weapons are delivered via three vehicles often referred to as the Nuclear Triad. The nuclear Triad traditionally is comprised of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bomber aircraft. According to retired Gen. James Cartwright, current plans call for 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines which can carry in total more than 1,000 nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total cost of almost $350 billion.[1] The Air Force is seeking new nuclear-armed strategic bombers that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles.[2]

Furthermore, $369 million is requested for a program for one of the warheads in our arsenal, the B61 gravity bomb, a 66% increase over last year’s funding.[3] The program is set to spend over $10 billion over the next 10 years to take apart each bomb and change out the parts to “extend the life” of the bombs.[4] However, the military effectiveness of these bombs is in question as some European leaders want the B61 nuclear weapons out of their countries, and this replacement program would not deliver new refurbished bombs until 2019 (2 year delay announced this year) and will not be completed until 2023.

In this time of global economic adversity, the United States should emphasis wise spending. As the “Fiscal Cliff” debate rages on, it is important to understand the implications as they pertain to nuclear disarmament, should Congress fail to come to an agreement. Most Americans would like to see a substantial reduction of the debt of the country. One way to do this is to cut spending that does not guarantee US national security. The debate should emphasize the crucial need to take money from nuclear weapons modernization and allocate it to programs that better protect our existing nuclear facilities and for dismantling of old bombs. It doesn’t matter how new and powerful a nuclear weapon is. If it is not well protected, it represents a constant threat.    

 While PSR is on the frontline, fighting for the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the globe, it is important to acknowledge the present global economic austerity. US can save money in many ways and, reducing our nuclear stockpile can help. For instance, based on military

expert estimates, the Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet could be downsized from 14 to eight or fewer new boats and save at least $27 billion over the next decade.[5]  This would still allow the Navy to deploy the same number of strategic nuclear warheads at sea as currently planned (about 1,000).  Also, the Pentagon suggested that using existing bombers now planned to last into the 2040s and delaying work on the new bomber program would save $18 billion over the next decade.[6] So why would Congress insist on giving more funding to the Pentagon which it does not appear to need nor even to want? 

The projected budget for nuclear weapons over the next 10 years is over $600 billion.[7] Half of that is for new weapons, but the rest for clean-up, management of nuclear materials in other countries and dismantling of the over 6000 weapons that are slated for destruction.  The 2013 budget proposal is only asking for $51 million for the nuclear weapons dismantlement process which represents a 10% drop from last year![8] This weakens our efforts. The current Administration priority should be reoriented. The dismantlement process should gain in speed as taking apart nuclear warheads can provide us with significant savings in the long-run. 

Nuclear deterrence is no longer a reasonable argument for holding onto Cold War weapons.  More effort needs to be put into bilateral and multilateral negotiations to avoid the humanitarian impacts of the use of these horrific weapons.

Unfortunately, President Obama is sending a worrisome mixed message. While his 2013 budget has suspended construction for a new facility in Los Alamos which saves taxpayers at least $200 million[9], and his speech in Prague argued for abolition, he has advanced a proposal with increased development of new weapons delivery systems and inadequate dismantlement of the backlog. Now is the time to bring this information to our congressional representatives and the president: please save us more money by cutting the nuclear weapons funding.  Given the economic downturn and vast deficit, Congress is instead considering cuts in the health care safety nets, cuts to in health protection through the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and other lifesaving agencies to name just a few.  It is time for Congress to make a bold move by cutting nuclear weapons programs, primarily their production facilities and any nuclear weapons modernization program. This would be the best way to save money and our health.


[1] Daryl G. Kimball, “Nuclear and Missile Systems We Can't Afford, Don't Need”, Volume 3, Issue 12, July 18, 2012

[2] Tom Z. Collina, “US Nuclear Modernization Program” August 2012, http://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/USNuclearModernization

[3]Brigadier General Keith Kerr (Ret.), “Redirect the nuclear weapons budget”, April 19,2012, The Hill, Congress Blog, http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/222531-redirect-the-nuclear-weapons-budget

[4] See Reference “3”

[5] Los Alamos Studies Group, Factual an d Policy Concerns Regarding the Chemistry and Metallurgic Replacement Nuclear Facilities (CMRR), http://www.lasg.org/budget/Levin_ltr_16July2012.pdf

[6] Daryl G. Kimball and Tom Z. Collina, “How Obama can slash defense budget: Cut unnecessary nuclear weapons programs”, January 19, 2012, Christian Science Monitor, http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0119/How-Obama-can-slash-defense-budget-Cut-unnecessary-nuclear-weapons-programs

[7] Tom Z Collina, “Nuclear Weapons Budget Factsheet” April 09,2012, Arms Control Association, http://www.armscontrol.org/files/Nuke-Budget-Fact-Sheets-DOD-04-10-2012.pdf

[8] Katie Heald, “$7.6 billion buys a lot of Valentine candy”, February 13, 2012,  Peace Action West, Groundswell Blog, http://blog.peaceactionwest.org/2012/02/13/7-billion-buys-a-lot-of-valentine-candy/

[9] Stephen Young, “Too Much, Too Late: The DOD’s Assessment of the B61 Life Extension Program”, November 5, 2012, All Things Nuclear, http://allthingsnuclear.org/author/syoung/

 

 

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