CONTACT: Anna Schumann
(JUNE 2 — WASHINGTON) The Council for a Livable World denounced the Biden administration’s request for $753 billion in defense spending in fiscal year 2022, including $43.2 billion for nuclear weapons, which is exorbitant and too closely follows the budget left behind by the Trump administration.
We are dismayed that President Joe Biden has not only recommitted this nation to an unrealistic level of defense spending, but also that he has adopted, seemingly without debate, most of the nuclear policies and programs of the Trump administration.
This is especially troubling as President Biden, who we endorsed in his first campaign for Senate in 1972, replied to a Council for a Livable World questionnaire last year saying that the United States did not need new nuclear weapons to deter other nuclear nations or keep Americans safe.
In responding to our questionnaire, he made it clear that his administration would “work to maintain a strong, credible deterrent while reducing our reliance and excessive expenditure on nuclear weapons” and “pursue a sustainable nuclear budget that maintains a viable deterrent for us and our allies.”
The Democratic Party’s 2020 policy platform likewise focused on the need to reduce “overreliance and excessive expenditure on nuclear weapons,” and made it clear that, “the Trump Administration’s proposal to build new nuclear weapons is unnecessary, wasteful, and indefensible.”
However, the fiscal year 2022 Biden budget requests funds for, or even expands, nearly every nuclear program from the Trump administration.
We are particularly disappointed by the fact that the Biden administration is planning to move forward on Trump-era plans to develop a new Nuclear Sea Launched Cruise Missile, a weapon that previous Republican and Democratic administrations deemed was no longer necessary after President George H. W. Bush removed it from the conventional Navy in 1991. This weapon is a legacy of Cold War-era thinking and would put nuclear weapons onto Navy ships. When the Council asked then-candidate Biden if he supported the new low-yield nuclear weapons called for in the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, he responded, “NO. The United States does not need new nuclear weapons.”
We are further disheartened that the administration requested a dramatic increase in funding for the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, a new intercontinental ballistic missile that has been widely criticized for having been lobbied and rushed into development before a full independent analysis could be produced to see if there are better alternatives available. The total program cost is estimated to be $264 billion over its lifecycle. President Biden should have paused funding on this program this year while a review occurs.
Defense and nuclear experts, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, have said that the United States no longer needs ICBMs to deter nuclear rivals, and that a new generation of these weapons could actually make us less safe.
Finally, the Cooperative Threats Reduction program, the Defense Department’s flagship program for peaceably countering weapons of mass destruction and related threats including dangerous pathogens like COVID-19, received a major cut of 33% from last year’s budget, following a 36% cut by the Trump administration the previous year. This cut seems out of sync from the reality we find ourselves in today, as the United States continues to grapple with growing nuclear, biological and global health threats.
While there are some positive elements in the new Biden national security budget request – an increase in the State Department budget, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, termination of the Overseas Contingency Operations account – the Biden budget is a major disappointment.
Despite its branding, this budget recommits the United States to billions in wasteful spending without a critical review to determine if this outpouring of tax dollars will make us safer from the threats of tomorrow. Our priority should be focusing on the real challenges facing our country today: climate change, global health security, and rebuilding our economy and infrastructure in the wake of a global pandemic.
We plan to work with Congress to change the direction of this budget and build a safer and more livable world.