Letter on key nuclear-weapons related amendments to House defense bill

by John Isaacs

Dear House Member:

On Thursday, May 14 and Friday May 15, the House is expected to consider a number of amendments related to nuclear weapons issues as it considers the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Bill.

The Pentagon and Department of Energy have launched an ambitious program to modernize all three legs of our nuclear weapons forces, land-based, sea-based and air, as well as our nuclear weapons stockpile. The government will not be able to pay for all of its nuclear weapons programs in the coming decades.  And this compelling opinion comes from within the Pentagon and prominent former officials.

Estimates from the Congressionally-appointed National Defense Panel, which included former Secretary of Defense William Perry, retired four star General John Abizaid and former Senator Jim Talent, and independent analysts at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, have both indicated the United States could spend up to $1 trillion over the next 30 years on modernizing and maintaining its nuclear arsenal. The National Defense Panel states that the cost  “would likely come at the expense of needed improvements in conventional forces.”

These plans have been deemed unaffordable by Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Acquisitions, who indicated the modernization plans would fail unless the Defense Department received an additional $10 to $12 billion annually by 2021.

In light of these concerns, we urge you to vote for the following amendments to the defense bill:

New START – OPPOSE Floor amendment #27 – Lamborn (R-Colo.) No. 312 barring funds to implement the New START nuclear reductions treaty until the Russians leave Ukraine alone, stops cheating on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and other conditions.

Russia – OPPOSE Floor amendment #28 – Turner (R-Ohio) No. 106 limiting U.S. and Russian military-to-military engagement until Russia stops interfering in Ukraine, adheres to the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty and other conditions.

Paying for submarines – SUPPORT Floor amendment #32 – Blumenauer (D-Ore.) No. 246 requiring funding for new strategic nuclear submarines to come from traditional Navy accounts, not a special Sea-Based Deterrent Fund that is being used because the Navy cannot afford the new subs and transfers money from the special fund to the Navy accounts.

ICBM’s – OPPOSE Floor amendment #35 –  Loomis (R-Wyo.) and others No. 210 prohibiting the reduction of the alert posture of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force.

Nuclear weapons dismantlement – SUPPORT Floor amendment #41 – Nadler (D-N.Y.) No. 272 striking section 3121, which places limits on funding for dismantlement of nuclear weapons.

Cruise missiles – SUPPORT Floor amendment #120 – Quigley (D-Ill.)-Blumenauer (D-Ore.)-Polis (D-Colo.) No. 289 requiring a Pentagon report on plans, cost and strategy to increase the number of nuclear-armed cruise missiles known as Long Range Standoff Weapons.

Space based missile defense – SUPPORT Floor amendment #122 – Foster (D-Ill.) No. 129 requiring the Director of the Missile Defense Agency to submit to Congress “estimates of the appropriate identifiable costs of each such potential program of record” for a space-based ballistic intercept and defeat layer.

East Coast Missile Defense – OPPOSE Floor amendment #123 – Turner (R-Ill.)-Keating (D-Mass.) amendment [revised] No. 260 requiring the Missile Defense Agency to tell Congress its preferred location of an East Coast missile defense within 30 days of the publishing of the draft environmental impact statement.

New ICBM’s – SUPPORT Floor amendment #124 – Quigley (D-Ill.) No. 288 requiring a Pentagon report on the costs of extending the life of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force versus building a new missile.

Thank you for considering these recommendations.

Sincerely,

Arms Control Association
Center for International Policy
Council for a Livable World
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Peace Action
Peace Action West
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), Livermore, CA
Union of Concerned Scientists
Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)