Lawmakers Seek $100B in U.S. Nuke Spending Cuts

A U.S. Navy submarine test-launches a Trident 2 D-5 ballistic missile off the coast of Florida in 1989. Democratic lawmakers were expected on Wednesday to propose a bill intended to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons spending by $100 billion (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin).
A U.S. Navy submarine test-launches a Trident 2 D-5 ballistic missile off the coast of Florida in 1989. Democratic lawmakers were expected on Wednesday to propose a bill intended to reduce U.S. nuclear weapons spending by $100 billion (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin).

A bill slated for submission to Congress on Wednesday aims to eliminate $100 billion in U.S. nuclear weapons spending through cuts to current and planned support facilities and delivery systems, the Boston Globe reported (see GSN, Jan. 30).

U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass) is leading 24 other Democratic lawmakers in pushing for the proposal, which would advise ending the use of  B-2 and B-52 bombers for carrying nuclear weapons and postponing until 2023 manufacturing of a successor to the strategic planes. The policy would essentially eliminate one component of the decades-old U.S. "triad" of silo-, aircraft- and submarine-based nuclear-weapon delivery systems, according to the Globe.

The legislation suggests eliminating six of the country's 14 ballistic missile submarines. Initial assembly of a future nuclear-capable submarine would be pushed back to 2023 under the proposal, and just eight of the vessels constructed.

In addition, the bill recommends scrapping plans for other nuclear weapons initiatives such as a new line of ICBMs, a nuclear capability for the F-35 fighter jet and the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee.

The legislation would require the United States to maintain no fewer than 200 ICBMs and 250 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

The bill is unlikely to gain the GOP political support it would need to advance through the House of Representatives, according to the Globe. Still, a number of Republicans have called for nuclear-weapon spending reductions; Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) last year proposed eliminating nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles in a plan aimed at saving $80 billion over 10 years.

Markey said his legislation was designed as an invitation to rethink the continued need for nuclear capabilities originally intended for deterring Soviet aggression (see GSN, Jan. 24). President Obama is now assessing the quantity of nuclear weapons needed to stave off aggression by present U.S. antagonists.

“Many say that we need a fundamental re-evaluation of Medicare and Medicaid and the entire domestic side of government spending,” Markey said. “You never hear them talk about a fundamental re-evaluation of whether the Cold War defense budget approach makes sense any longer for the 21st century.”

Nuclear stockpile reductions could free up funding for other military-related initiatives targeting more significant dangers, Markey added. 

“It’s better to cut unneeded submarines than Navy SEALs and better to cut nuclear bombers than unmanned drones,” the congressman said. “Which weapons are we going to be using in the 21st century?”

“How many Americans know each Trident submarine has the capacity to totally destroy Russia or China?” Markey asked. “That’s each submarine, not the entire fleet.”

“What is the greater terror? That Americans will be attacked in nuclear war or they will get a call that cancer or Alzheimer’s has struck one of the members of their family,” he added. “We need to have this wider debate.”

Arms control advocates voiced support for Markey's proposal.

“This is not a road map to zero weapons,” said Joel Rubin, policy and government affairs head for the Ploughshares Fund. “Markey is calling for sound strategic and fiscal decision-making for our national defense.”

Daryl Kimball, who heads the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the legislation "highlights some of the ways which the United States can save tens of billions of dollars in systems that are simply not required for our security.”

“None of this is really radical thinking in the context of the budget environment we are in,” added Carl Conetta, who co-leads the Project on Defense Alternatives in Cambridge, Mass. “The nuclear weapons industry is huge and they are going to lobby against it, but we still have dramatic overkill in this area.”

Armed forces commanders might back such reductions, Conetta suggested.

“You might get agreement among the Joint Chiefs, who might want to rescue other weapon systems” from decreases in funding, he said (Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, Jan. 8).

February 8, 2012
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A bill slated for submission to Congress on Wednesday aims to eliminate $100 billion in U.S. nuclear weapons spending through cuts to current and planned support facilities and delivery systems, the Boston Globe reported.

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