Representative Ed Markey authored a letter to the supercommittee calling for cuts to the nuclear weapons budget. This letter helped create a campaign that Council along with many other NGOs are involved in to encourage the supercommittee and Congress to take a hard look at the nuclear weapons budget and make necessary cuts to unnecessary programs.
On October 11, 2011, Representative Ed Markey held a press conference to emphasize the need for these cuts to the nuclear weapons budget. He stated, "We can no longer afford to rob the future to pay for unneeded weapons of the past. Now is the time to reset our priorities and invest in the people and programs to get America back on track."
Alongside Ed Markey, Joe Cirincione and Ron Pollack, Lt General Robert Gard spoke at the press conference. His speech can be found below.
Representative Markey's proposal is not only militarily responsible but it also would enhance the national security of the United States.
The U.S. currently has an excessive number of more than 5,000 nuclear weapons, which are expensive to maintain, with about 2,000 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on some 800 launchers, programmed to go down to 1,550 on 700 launchers by 2018 in compliance with the New START treaty.
Meanwhile, Russia is retiring old strategic weapons and delivery vehicles faster than it is replacing them. It already has fewer deployed weapons than the START limit, and is on track to reduce to as few as 1,000.
This would make it unnecessary for Russia to build its strategic weapons back up to START levels by deploying a new large liquid-fueled ICBM with multiple warheads, which would be de-stabilizing and therefore contrary to U.S. security interests.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn has suggested moving in this direction by reducing the number of deployed and reserve strategic weapons systems, and delaying procurement of a new bomber, with savings of $79 billion.
We are currently programmed to spend more than $700 billion on nuclear programs over the next ten years.
During that period we plan to cut a minimum of $350 billion from our projected defense expenditures, and likely another $500 billion if the Joint Legislative Committee fails to agree on a reductions of at least $1.2 trillion in our projected debt or if the Congress fails to approve the Committee's recommendation.
It simply is not prudent to maintain an unnecessarily robust nuclear deterrent given the opportunity costs it would entail such large reductions in the defense budget and the social programs cited by Representative Markey. We should heed the warnings of former Secretary Gates, General Cartwright and even the current commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, General Kehler, that the high costs of new programmed strategic nuclear weapons systems are not affordable.