Council for a Livable World, along with many allied organizations, is embarking on a new campaign to cut the nuclear weapons budget responsibly.
It is estimated that the United States will spend hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next decade, including spending on new nuclear submarines, bombers, land-based missiles, nuclear facilities, and related nuclear activities.
While the objective of cutting this budget may have appeared implausible in the past, it is now both necessary and a realistic possibility. The budget deficit crunch is forcing Congress and the administration to take a fresh look at programs that were once considered inviolable.
A close examination of the Pentagon’s budget plans reveals numerous nuclear weapons programs that are more closely related to defeating the Soviet Union during the Cold War than to addressing current security threats such as terrorism.
For example, the Navy plans to spend around $110 billion to build a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines. The Pentagon estimates the total cost of building and operating the new submarine at nearly $350 billion over its 50 year lifespan. The Air Force also intends to spend $55 billion on procurement of 100 new bombers and an unknown sum on new land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Additionally, the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to spend $88 billion over the next decade to refurbish existing nuclear warheads and rebuild the factories that make key nuclear warhead parts..
These planned expenditures will add to the already huge cost of maintaining and protecting the existing 5,000 civilization-destroying nuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
Top military officials, such as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, have suggested that some of these programs may be unaffordable.
These weapons do nothing to prevent or deter a terrorist attack and play no role in the wars that the U.S. is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. can guarantee its security and that of its allies while spending far less money on nuclear weapons.
For more on why expanding the nuclear weapons budget is a bad idea, see Kingston Reif and Laicie Olson’s recent article here.
Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey, long a hero to the arms control movement for the role he played in helping lead the fight for a nuclear freeze in the 1980s, is taking the helm once again.
He has authored a letter to the super committee, the 12 Members of Congress tasked with reducing the federal budget deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, asking them to target the nuclear programs as a prime candidate for reductions.
The letter, with the headline “Freeze the Nukes, Fund the Future,” calls on the super committee to “to cut $20 billion a year, or $200 billion over the next ten years, from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.”
The letter further argues: “We need to freeze our nuclear weapons, and fuel our stalled economy.”
Congressman Markey is asking Members of Congress to join him in signing the letter, with a deadline the week of October 3.
The nuclear arms control community is cooperating with Rep. Markey in this effort, which is not a two month campaign but rather a long-term effort.