Rebuttal of the Ploughshares Fund’s lies about nuclear weapons


The pacifist, anti-defense, anti-nuclear “Ploughshares Fund” has recently issued a ridiculous litany of blatant lies claiming that the cost of modernizing the US nuclear arsenal will be $620 bn to $660 bn over the next decade. WaPo’s Glenn Kessler, for his part, claimed last year that “The numbers are big enough that they don’t need to be exaggerated.” and that “Ploughshares is an admirable organization”.

The Ploughshares Fund is irredeemably biased, because it’s an organization whose stated goal is the elimination of the US nuclear arsenal, i.e. the unilateral disarmament of the United States, so they and their numbers are not credible. These numbers are, in fact, most likely utterly false.

And in fact, they have been caught lying about nuclear modernization costs many times before – by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler, for example. When, last year, they falsely claimed a $700 bn per decade nuclear modernization cost, the WaPo’s Fact Checker gave them two Pinnochios [1], and they responded by saying “whether we are spending $500 billion or $700 billion on nuclear weapons in the next decade — the number is still too high.” No, it is not too high; it amounts to just $70 bn per year out of a $3.6 trillion total annual federal budget. It’s a paltry figure. But it shows that when Ploughshares is caught lying, it says “well, it doesn’t matter if the figure is A or B, we still think it’s too high.”

This year, they’ve come back with their blatant lies, so blatant that even the pro-nuclear-disarmament Obama administration disagrees with them, as it did last year. [2]

Ploughshares’ numbers are likely to be grossly overestimated, as they were last year, deceptively includes projected missile defense spending (even though missile defense protects against more than nuclear-armed missiles) and costs for systems that no longer have a nuclear mission (e.g. the B-1 bomber).

They include a claimed $97 bn in what they claim will be missile defense costs, even though missile defense is NOT a part of the US nuclear arsenal in any way and is designed and intended to protect against ALL kinds of ballistic missiles regardless of whether they carry nuclear, conventional, chemical, or biological warheads. Moreover, the missile defense budget is likely to shrink over the next decade, absent a Romney Administration, and if sequestration proceeds, it will be cut deeply, so the $97 bn per decade figure will likely be wrong.

Including “threat reduction programs” (i.e. nuclear weapon DISMANTLEMENT programs) in the cost of nuclear modernization is also a deliberate manipulation. “Threat reduction” has nothing to do with the modernization of America’s nuclear triad; it’s about the dismantlement of nuclear warheads and their carriers. The vast majority of these programs are, moreover, spent on dismantling the nuclear weapons of the Former Soviet Union, not the US.

Furthermore, both missile defense and threat reduction programs would’ve existed even if the US had no nuclear arsenal, so including their costs in the costs of maintaining America’s nuclear arsenal is utterly dishonest.

So Ploughshares deliberately includes, in its wildly exaggerated estimates, two large items which have NOTHING to do with the modernization of America’s nuclear triad.

In this, they are not alone – in 2009, the Carnegie Endowment also deceptively included missile defense and threat reduction costs in their rigged “study”, even though doing so is highly deceptive and utterly dishonest. Thus, Carnegie reached and trumpeted an utterly false figure of $52.4 bn per year in FY2008 dollars; without these unrelated items, the cost would’ve been only $38 bn per year. [2]

As WaPo’s Glenn Kessler remarked last year, when Ploughshares issued its first version of this grossly exaggerated estimate:

“As the spreadsheet below shows, the group included such things as the costs of missile defense (on the theory that it exists only to protect America against nuclear weapons) and environmental clean-up. As we said, there is a legitimate debate about whether or not to include such items—is missile defense needed even if the U.S. gives up all of its nukes?–but those items account for nearly $270 billion of the Ploughshares figure.”

Ploughshares’ estimates of the cost of nuclear modernization itself are also very likely to be exaggerated, just like they were exaggerated last year and earned them two Pinnochios from the Washington Post’s fact checker (which was a generous assessment; I would’ve given them four Pinnochios).

And a frequently ignored fact is that regardless of how much will nuclear modernization cost – and it’s likely to be far lower than Ploughshares claims – it’s a necessary investment in the nuclear deterrent, America’s (and its allies’) defense against the most catastrophic threat: that of nuclear attack. It’s a real threat (given the large arsenals that Russia and China possess), and only a large nuclear deterrent can protect America and its allies against it. There is no alternative to nuclear weapons.

Under the Constitution, the federal government’s #1 duty is to provide for the common defense. The federal government is obligated to do everything necessary to provide for a strong, effective defense. Federal “welfare”, education, environmental, and “healthcare” programs are unconstitutional as they are outside the scope of the federal government’s constitutional prerogatives. “Welfare”, education, the environment, and “healthcare” are just a few among the myriad of issues reserved to the states and the people.

Moreover, whatever the final cost may be, and it’s almost certain to be much lower than Ploughshares claims in its extremely biased projections, let’s not forget that:

1) Even $620-$660 bn over a decade is only $62-$66 bn per year, i.e. about 1.9% of the total federal budget and just 1/10th of the total military budget. It is ridiculous to claim that America cannot afford to devote a meagre 1.9% of its federal budget and a mere 1/10th of its military budget to protect itself against the most catastrophic threats – nuclear attack and nuclear blackmail – by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Not to mention the fact that America provides a nuclear deterrent not only for itself, but also for 30 allies who rely on it and who, thanks to the American nuclear umbrella, don’t have to develop their own nuclear weapons. If America’s nuclear deterrent is cut further, they will start doubting in its credibility and will have to develop their own nuclear weapons, thus making the proliferation problem much worse.

Preventing nuclear proliferation by providing a nuclear umbrella to over 30 allies costs the US relatively little, while preventing proliferation, a huge benefit of incalculable dollar value which is certainly worth its price. Better to spend $62 bn per year to modernize the nuclear umbrella and to continue to provide it for the next several decades to all 30 allies than to have them (including Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, Japan, and South Korea) develop their own nuclear weapons.

2)  The Social Security program consumes $700 bn of taxpayers money EVERY YEAR – not every decade.

In short, both Ploughshares and Carnegie are blatantly lying, including unrelated items in their estimates in other to wildly exaggerate the figures, and also exaggerating the cost of nuclear modernization programs themselves.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/will-the-united-states-really-spend-700-billion-in-the-next-decade-on-nuclear-weapons-programs/2011/11/29/gIQAbEAtBO_blog.html

[2] http://nucleardiner.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/1251-1.pdf; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/will-the-united-states-really-spend-700-billion-in-the-next-decade-on-nuclear-weapons-programs/2011/11/29/gIQAbEAtBO_blog.html

As Glenn Kessler reported last year: “But the administration of President Obama—who won a Nobel Peace Prize in part for calling for a world without nuclear weapons—has flatly rejected the $700 billion figure. James Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense, told Congress on Nov. 2 that the figure was close to $214 billion over ten years, with $88 billion being spent at the Energy Department, which maintains nuclear weapons, and more than $125 billion spent on delivery systems at the Defense Department.”

Furthermore, Kessler says, “A big unknown question is whether the DOD figure of $125 billion really includes all of the modernization costs, as Miller suggested. DOD’s most recent budget documents estimate that from 2010-2016, strategic forces will consume $83.3 billion, or about two-thirds of the $125 billion the administration now says it plans to spend to operate, maintain, and enhance nuclear delivery systems.”

[3] http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nuclear_security_spending.pdf

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