Women. Power. Peace.

Bob Farquhar: An Elephant in the Budget Room – Nuclear Weapons

As Congress debates the 2012 budget that we the people, our children, grandchildren and their children will pay for, ways of cutting expenses seem hard to find even though one stands out like a sore thumb; expenditures on nuclear weapons, relics of the Cold War.

The U.S. currently spends roughly $55 billion annually on nuclear weapons related programs.  Forty percent of the Department of Energy $29.5 billion budget goes to nuclear weapons. The 2012 budget being debated increases spending on nuclear weapons 20 percent over 2010’s budget, the highest increase since Ronald Reagan.  With the Cold War over some 20 years now, I and others have to ask “What the heck for?”

Last year, in order to get Republican support for ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the Obama administration agreed that $85 billion more would be spent over 10 years to modernize the nuclear weapons complex.   Why?  If the nuclear weapons infrastructure is old and outdated, that’s a pretty good indicator it has served its purpose and should be done away with.

These unnecessary budget increases and expenditures run contrary to U.S. commitments under the 1972 Non-Proliferation Treaty and undermine America's credibility in the world on efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons under the NPT.  As long as we have them, and insist on keeping and modernizing them, other countries can justify having them.

While the nuclear arms race deterred nuclear conflict between Russia and the U.S. during the Cold War, it certainly did not and does not deter other countries from obtaining nuclear weapons nor will it deter terrorists, who by definition are not deterable.   In our changed world, nuclear weapons no longer serve any rational, justifiable purpose and are actually liabilities to our security and defense.

The Department of Defense supports nuclear disarmament.  As far back as 1996, STRATCOM Commander General Lee Butler stated, “… nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient and morally indefensible;” General Horner, architect of Gulf War air operations was even clearer in 1994, “The nuclear weapon is obsolete, I want to get rid of them.”   So why are a few members of Congress pushing for increased spending on them?  When did Congress become military strategists?

Surveys have for years shown that the public throughout the world, the U.S. and Russia included, support the elimination of nuclear weapons and the use of treaties between nations to do so.  Yet it doesn’t play out that way as those with a vested interest in the nuclear arms industry seem to be the only ones insisting we need nuclear weapons, at great expense.  Aside from military hawks and right-wing neo-cons, organizations like the Heritage Foundation, National Institute of Public Policy, Center for Security Policy, and other arms industry lobbying firms have the ears of members in Congress more so than we the people.  Nuclear weapons are big business, creating expenditures we can ill-afford, especially when we face such large deficits.

Georgia Senators Johnny Isakson, who supported the New START treaty last year, and Saxby Chambliss, who voted against it, should be sent a strong message from we the people, “Stop funding for nuclear weapons.”

Robert B. Farquhar is a retired Air Force master sergeant who served the United States for over twenty-four years. During his service he studied the effects of nuclear warfare and was trained as a fallout shelter manager. He an anti-nuclear activist in Georgia and a prolific writer, with many op-eds published and his book "Duck and Cover" is in the publishing process now. Bob lives in Bonaire with his partner, Beth.

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