On December 12th, extremely leftist Congressman Ed Markey and 44 other stridently leftist Democrats sent a letter to the Republican and Democrat leaders of both houses of Congress again calling for spending on America’s nuclear deterrent to be cut by over $100 bn over the next decade… ignoring the fact that this would save only $10 bn per year, and thus do NOTHING to reduce the budget deficit or the debt, while gravely harming US national security and inviting a Russian nuclear first strike.
Their entire letter is a litany of blatant lies. They falsely claim, in the opening paragraph of the letter, that
“Our oversized nuclear weapons arsenal fails to reflect historical reality. Our spending on radioactive relics of the past requires a reality check. We won the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell. The threats we face today have dramatically changed in the past two decades.”
But those are blatant lies. The mere fact that the Cold War is over and the Berlin Wall is gone (and BTW, during the Cold War these strident liberals were undermining Ronald Reagan at every turn; had they had their way, the Soviet Union would’ve won the Cold War) does NOT mean that America can deeply cut its nuclear deterrent further or that nuclear weapons are relics of a bygone era. Quite the contrary. America needs its nuclear deterrent now more than ever. It needs that arsenal to deter Russia, China, North Korea, and in the future, Iran, and to provide a nuclear umbrella to over 30 allies who rely on it, thus showing them that they don’t need to develop nuclear arsenals of their own. The threats America faces today have mostly changed in origin, but not in nature. The need for a large nuclear deterrent is more pronounced than ever.
America’s nuclear arsenal is not oversized at all. It is already far smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War (and at any point in that period except the 1940s and the early 1950s). It numbers ca. 5,000 warheads today, whereas at the end of the Cold War, it numbered 20,000. The current arsenal is – as two successive STRATCOM commanders, Gen. Kevin Chilton and Gen. Bob Kehler and former SECDEF James Schlesinger have stated – the bare minimum to deter potential adversaries and protect America and its friends. Russia has 2,800 strategic warheads (1,492 of them deployed), untold thousands of tactical nukes, and a huge fleet of delivery systems: 434 ICBMs, 14 ballistic missile subs, over 200 strategic bombers with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, and thousands of tactical nuclear delivery systems. Its ICBM fleet alone can deliver 1,684 warheads to the US. China has at least 1,800, and up to 3,000, nuclear warheads, and possesses at least 36 DF-5, 30 DF-31/31A, and a number of DF-41 MIRVable ICBMs, plus 6 ballistic missile subs.
Any claim that the US nuclear arsenal is “oversized” is a blatant lie. This also utterly belies their false claim that “We can save hundreds of billions of dollars by restructuring the U.S. nuclear program for the 21st century.” The US nuclear program/arsenal is already in line with the 21st century, as demonstrated above.
They also falsely claim that “Unchecked spending on nuclear weapons threatens to push us over the fiscal cliff.” But US nuclear weapons spending is anything but “unchecked”, and it does not threaten to push America over the fiscal cliff. According to the Stimson Center, America’s total annual nuclear arsenal spending is $32 bn per year, and the US is expected to spend $352 bn – $392 bn over the next decade (i.e. just $39.2 bn per year) to maintain and modernize its nuclear arsenal. $32 bn is just 4.8% of the FY2012 military budget. $39.2 bn per year would amount to just 6%. As a share of the total federal budget, nuclear weapon spending is even lower: just 1% of the federal budget. It’s peanuts. And it is reviewed, authorized, and appropriated every year by Congress. Thus, it is not “unchecked”; it is under strict Congressional control. And cutting it deeply would not save more than a pittance. Moreover, due to its small size, it’s no threat to any other government programs.
Thus, due to its small size, the nuclear weapons budget belies these strident liberals’ false claim that “Our bloated nuclear weapons budget defies fiscal reality” and their equally false claims that:
“It imperils both our national and economic security. It makes us less safe by preventing investment in the systems that our soldiers need most. It jeopardizes our future by forcing cuts to programs that fund life-saving medical research, train teachers, and ensure seniors and the most vulnerable receive essential healthcare.”
No, it is the reckless, deep, unilateral cuts to America’s nuclear deterrent and its budget which these strident liberals advocate that threatens national security. Furthermore, what our soldiers (and US citizens) need most is an umbrella protecting them against the most catastrophic threats: nuclear, chemical, biological, or massive conventional attack. Only the US nuclear deterrent can do this. Strategic bombers also provide strategic bombing of targets deep inside enemy territory and close air support to ground troops, and have done so in every war the US has partaken in since WW2. Long range strike – the other mission of strategic bombers – will be one of the most crucial ones in the future, as documented by the CSBA’s Mark Gunzinger.
No, nuclear weapons spending is not preventing investment in anything else nor siphoning money away from anything. It’s too small to do that.
And no, the small nuclear weapons budget is not forcing cuts to any medical research, teacher training, or Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, Medicare and Medicaid have been growing on autopilot ever since these programs’ creation. Moreover, constitutionally, all of these issues and programs are none of the federal government’s business – they are the purview of state and local governments, families, and the private sector.
In terms of research, including “life-saving medical research”, the US is the world’s undisputed leader, accounting for over 33% of world research spending, and by far the most of that money goes to medical, pharmaceutical, and biotech research: $40.6 bn per year by the top 10 American companies alone. (Not counting spending by smaller companies and by government agencies.)
No, nuclear weapons spending does not imperil US national or economic security. Quite the contrary, it safeguards both. It protects America and its allies against the most catastrophic threats at a cost of just 5% of the total military budget and 1% of the total federal budget.
They also falsely claim that “We know there is plenty of waste in the nuclear weapons budget.” But that’s also a blatant lie.
There isn’t any significant “waste” there. What Markey and his fellow leftist Democrats call “waste” are actually crucial nuclear weapon and system/facility modernization programs, including B61 nuclear bomb modernization (needed to provide a nuclear umbrella to Europe, threatened by Russia’s strategic and tactical nuclear weapons; the US has only 400 tactical nuclear warheads while Russia has 10 times that many); the planned Uranium Production Facility in Tennessee, necessary to produce highly-enriched uranium to keep American nuclear warheads available; the CMRR facility planned for Los Alamos, New Mexico, necessary to replace obsolete, decrepit Manhattan Project era facilities; the current ICBMs and B-2 stealth bombers providing two legs of the nuclear triad and thus keeping the peace; and the Next Generation Bomber, needed to replace America’s obsolete B-52 and B-1 bombers (which cannot survive in any defended airspace) in both the nuclear and the conventional long range strike roles.
Citing what they claim to be “waste”, they falsely claim that:
“We are refurbishing a nuclear bomb that no one wants. We are building a Uranium processing facility we do not need. We are planning for a new nuclear bomber when the ones we have will last for decades. In fact, just one nuclear bomb life extension program will cost $10 billion for an estimated 400 weapons.”
But the Uranium Processing Facility is needed, and the B61 bomb, which they falsely claim is a bomb “that no one wants”, is actually very much needed to protect America’s European allies from Russia; in the last 2years, at least several European countries, including France and Turkey, have urged America to keep its tactical B61 nuclear warheads in Europe, thus belying the claim that it’s “a bomb that no one wants” – it’s a bomb which only pacifists don’t want America to have. Several NATO countries have warned America against cutting its nuclear arsenal further, saying it threatens NATO’s integrity. And the B61’s modernization cost ($10 bn) will be spread over many years, not one year. If spread over 5 years, it amounts to only $2 bn per annum.
As for the next generation bomber, which will be nuclear- AND conventional-strike-capable, it is likewise very much needed RIGHT NOW. B-52 and B-1 bombers have huge radar signatures and are extremely easy for even legacy Soviet air defense systems (not to mention the newest Russian and Chinese systems like the S-300, S-400, and HQ-9) to detect and shoot down and are therefore useless in anything but the most benign environment where the only opponents are insurgents unable to contest control of the air. Sending American pilots in these bombers into enemy airspace would be a death sentence on them. It would consign them to a certain death or capture (and probably torture). Shame on these House liberals for advocating this fate for brave American pilots. For more on the need for a Next Generation Bomber, see here, here, here, and here.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley (appointed by Gates) has recently reaffirmed the need for the NGB, while also demonstrating how little this program, and bomber programs in general, cost compared to the USAF’s total modernization budget:
“The new Long-Range Strike bomber is one of our top priorities and encompasses approximately two percent of Air Force investment. An additional three percent over the next five years goes to sustain and modernize the B-52, B-1, and B-2 bombers to ensure these aging aircraft remain viable.”
Among the most lethal and most pervasive threats today is that of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) weapons, such as short/medium-range ballistic missiles (which threaten in-theater American bases, forcing the USAF to fly bombers from distant bases) and air defense systems (which can shoot down any nonstealthy aircraft). B-52s and B-1s don’t stand a chance of surviving in such environment. The Next Generation Bomber is absolutely necessary to counter these threats and strike targets deep within enemy territory. It is an integral, sine qua non part of the DOD’s new AirSea Battle strategy of countering A2/AD threats. Without it, the US military won’t be able to hit the enemy or operate inside enemy airspace.
These strident liberals claim that “Cuts to nuclear weapons programs upwards of $100 billion over the next 10 years are possible.”
While they are technically “possible”, they would be foolish and disastrous for national security. Deeply cutting the already meagre investments in America’s nuclear deterrent, deeply cutting it in size, and foregoing its modernization – as these strident liberals advocate – would greatly jeopardize America’s national security and invite a Russian or Chinese nuclear first strike on the US for the reasons stated above.
They also cite the Ploughshares Fund’s completely false, vastly exaggerated “estimate” of what the US nuclear arsenal costs and what its maintenance and modernization will cost in the next decade:
“The Ploughshares Fund estimates that the U.S. is projected to spend over $640 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next ten years.”
But Ploughshares’ figure is completely false. The correct figure, as stated above, is the Stimson Center’s: 352 bn to 392 bn over the next decade, i.e. no more than 39.2 bn per year (i.e. just 6% of the total military budget and a fraction of one percent of total federal spending). That’s a drop in the bucket.
Ploughshares released its utterly false, vastly exaggerated numbers earlier this year, and was rebuked by the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who gave Ploughshares two Pinnochios for that claim. Ploughshares is an utterly biased organization which seeks deep, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent and its eventual elimination. Thus, it has an incentive to lie and to exaggerate nuclear weapon costs. It’s not a credible source at all. It’s a group of shameless liars.
The strident liberals’ letter closes as follows:
“Cut Minuteman missiles. Do not cut Medicare and Medicaid. Cut nuclear-armed B-52 and B-2 bombers. Do not cut Social Security. Invest in the research and education that will drive our future prosperity, not in weapons for a war we already won.”
But, as demonstrated above, nuclear weapons are needed now even more than during the Cold War. They’re not relics of a bygone era; they’re needed to deter Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. And eliminating all American ICBMs would “save” only $1.1 bn per year, while eliminating all USAF nuclear bombers would “save” only $2.5 bn per year. Furthermore, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and federal research and education programs are utterly unconstitutional (as they are outside the Constitutional powers of the federal government), while providing for America’s defense is the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government.
Furthermore, not cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security means that the budget deficit (not to mention the public debt) will never be erased, because these three entitlement programs alone amount to 62% of the ENTIRE federal budget. THEY are crowding out defense spending (including nuclear weapons spending), not vice versa. Even eliminating all military spending would fail to even halve the budget deficit, let alone erase it.
Even eliminating all USAF ICBMs and bombers would not pay for even a fraction of the coming tsunami of entitlement spending, or even the incoming continued growth of SS spending.
These strident liberal Democrats’ claims are all blatant lies, and their demands must be completely rejected.
The letter was signed by Ed Markey, John Conyers, Jr., Rush D. Holt, Barbara Lee, Raul M. Grijalva, Charles B. Rangel, Lynn Woolsey, Donna M.C. Christensen, Peter A. DeFazio, Jared Polis, Sam Farr, Jerrold Nadler, Michael M. Honda, Barney Frank, James P. McGovern, Hansen Clarke, Earl Blumenauer, Alcee L. Hastings, Maxine Waters, Jan Schakowsky, Keith Ellison, William Lacy Clay, Lois Capps, Bruce Braley, John Yarmuth, James P. Moran, Peter Welch, Timothy H. Bishop, John W. Olver, John F. Tierney, Marcy Kaptur, Laura Richardson, Richard E. Neal, John Lewis, Janice Hahn, Donna Edwards, Maurice D. Hinchey, Betty McCollum, William Keating, Jim McDermott, David E. Price, Yvette D. Clarke, Carolyn B. Maloney, Doris Matsui, and Hank Johnson. In other words, the most strident liberals in the House.
http://markey.house.gov/press-release/markey-house-dems-leadership-unneeded-nuclear-weapons-spending-should-be-cut-help; http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/fiscal-cliff-talks-prompt-new-call-curb-us-nuke-spending/; http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/legislation-seeks-100b-nuke-spending-cuts/