Action alert: A raise for nukes?

Join the National Call-in Day

Two new bills give Congress an opportunity to step up and make cuts to nuclear weapons.

The president’s budget request for 2015 shows that his priorities are still dangerously backwards, asking for yet another increase for nuclear weapons while crucial domestic spending continues to be slashed.

Our allies in Congress are stepping up to take these misguided priorities head on. Companion bills have been introduced in the House and Senate that would save $100 billion in the next ten years by cutting nuclear weapons and related programs. In the Senate, Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) bill is the SANE Act (S. 2070) and in the House, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the REIN-IN Act (H.R. 4107).[1] We need you to call your representatives right now to get them on board to cut nukes.

Click here to call your representatives right now and tell them to cosponsor these important bills.

If Congress grants the request for a 7% increase in the nuclear weapons budget this year, it would be one of the only parts of the entire federal budget that would get such a large increase in its budget. How would you like to get a 7% raise this year? Or for your child’s school to get a 7% increase in its budget? Call your representatives to tell them that nuclear weapons are the last thing that should get a raise this year.

Sen. Markey and Rep. Blumenauer have stepped up to introduce bills that would challenge these insane spending increases, and save $100 billion that should be spent in our communities. Organizations all over the country are working together to urge members of Congress to cosponsor these bills and stand for cutting nukes. Our calling tool makes it quick and easy for you to join the National Call-in Day.

Click here to call your representatives and tell them to cosponsor the SANE and REIN-IN Acts to cut nukes spending.

[1] Click here for the text of the SANE Act.
And for the text of the REIN-IN Act.

Action Alert: Budget Cut for Nuclear Bombs

One step closer.

On June 27, Senator Feinstein’s subcommittee cut the B61’s budget by over 30%. You made this happen with the messages you have been sending to your senators all year urging them to cut wasteful spending on this program to overhaul the B61 nuclear bomb.

Unfortunately, the House Appropriations committee actually gave the B61 program a $23 million increase, above what the agency requested for the program this year. The budget bill is on the floor of the House right now, and Reps. Quigley (D-IL) and Polis (D-CO) will be offering an amendment to cut the extra funds for the B61. Your representative needs to hear that you support this amendment right now.

Call your representative right now at 202-224-3121 to vote yes on the Quigley-Polis amendment to cut funding for the B61 nuclear bomb. To find your representative click here.

Use this sample as a guide:

“My name is [your name] and I live in [your city]. I am calling to tell [your representative] to vote for the Quigley-Polis amendment to the Appropriations bill to cut excess funds for the B61 nuclear bomb.”

This is one of the most egregious examples of wasteful spending on nuclear weapons. This program to overhaul 400 B61 nuclear bombs is now estimated to cost over $10 billion to complete. And, some of these overpriced bombs will likely be phased out of deployment entirely 10 years from now. Meaning that millions of dollars were literally flushed right down the drain for no reason.

You can stop the waste by calling 202-224-3121 and telling your representative to vote yes on the Quigley-Polis amendment to cut funding for the B61 nuclear bomb.

The Senate took a step in the right direction. We can’t let the House take us backwards. Your call can make sure nuclear bombs get a budget cut.

Lawmakers call for cuts to nukes spending

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) was joined by 44 other members of Congress on a letter to leaders in both the House and the Senate insisting that billions of dollars in cuts to nuclear weapons should be on the table. See Rep. Markey’s press release here.

Republicans and Democrats are still discussing options to balance the budget and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, but they are no where close to a deal that both sides will be able to agree on. And current proposals from both sides are conspicuously lacking specifics about making cuts to our enormous and wasteful military and nuclear weapons budgets. In the letter, the lawmakers point out:

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.  At a time when the government must tighten its belt, we cannot continue to spend at these levels.  We can save hundreds of billions of dollars by restructuring the U.S. nuclear program for the 21st century.

The letter points out that several nuclear programs have been criticized for being unnecessary and over-budget. For example, the program to refurbish the B-61 gravity bomb, a bomb no one wants, and which will now cost over $10 billion: literally more than the bomb’s weight in gold. And it insists that the current levels of spending on nuclear weapons is not fiscally responsible.

Unchecked spending on nuclear weapons threatens to push us over the fiscal cliff.  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.

If your Representative is on this list of signers, call them and thank them for signing onto Rep. Markey’s letter and for speaking out against wasteful nuclear weapons spending. See the signers and the full letter at Rep. Markey’s website.

Signers:
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Timothy H. Bishop (D-NY)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Bruce Braley (D-IA)
Lois Capps (D-CA)
Donna M.C. Christensen (D-VI)
Hansen Clarke (D-MI)
Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY)
William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)
Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR)
Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Sam Farr (D-CA)
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Janice Hahn (D-CA)
Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)
Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY)
Rush D. Holt (D-NJ)
Michael M. Honda (D-CA)
Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
William Keating (D-MA)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
James P. McGovern (D-MA)
James P. Moran (D-VA)
Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Richard E. Neal (D-MA)
John W. Olver (D-MA)
Jared Polis (D-CO)
David E. Price (D-NC)
Charles B. Rangel (D-NY)
Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
John F. Tierney (D-MA)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Peter Welch (D-VT)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
John Yarmuth (D-KY)

116 organizations tell the President to rid the world of nuclear weapons

50 years ago today, the people of the world had no idea that the first steps of the Cuban Missile Crisis had begun, and the planet was about to be the closest that we have ever been to a global nuclear conflict.

For 13 days in October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a standoff over bases the Soviets had built in Cuba for nuclear missiles. For most people in the US, this was the first time they had to face the stark reality of the danger that nuclear weapons posed to the entire planet.

In 2012, the dangerous nature of nuclear weapons is no longer a secret. And though we have made progress in the last 50 years in reducing stockpiles, limiting testing, and halting much of the development of new weapons, there is still much work to be done. There are still over 20,000 nuclear weapons on our planet, and President Obama has an opportunity right now to make changes to US nuclear policy that could make the world a much safer place.

Our sister organization, the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World, organized small and large organizations and community leaders to sign a letter to the President. The letter urges him to use his current review of nuclear policy to move us closer to a world free of all nuclear weapons. That is only way we can truly be safe from the dangers of these outdated and horrific weapons of mass destruction.

The letter with 116 signatures from local, regional and national organization was delivered to the White House and key national security staff today. With this letter we bring together faith leaders, environmental groups, elected officials and peace groups from 28 states and representing hundreds of thousands of people with one united message. Showing the broad support across the country for working to rid the world of nuclear weapons, saving billions of dollars, and making the world a safer place. We expect that the Administration will not take further steps on the nuclear policy review until after the election, and at that point we hope to know more about the future role of nuclear weapons in our national security.

We want to thank all of the groups that joined the letter and helped us reach out to others. You can read the full letter here, and the list of signers below the jump:

Dear President Obama,

As 116 local, regional, and national organizations from across the United States representing hundreds of thousands of individuals, we applaud your work to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. We are pleased to see that your administration has undertaken a thoughtful process to review and revise US nuclear weapons policy.

We urge you to use the results of this review to move us closer to a world free of nuclear weapons. The eventual elimination of the threat of nuclear weapons requires us to rethink the role of these weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century. As you stated in Prague in 2009, it’s time to “put an end to outdated Cold War thinking”; there is no national security rationale for maintaining a massive nuclear arsenal.  In today’s world, nuclear weapons are a liability, not an asset, and the US can maintain its security while taking responsible steps to reduce our stockpile and work with other countries to do the same.

In addition to compelling moral and security arguments to move toward elimination of nuclear weapons, there is a strong fiscal argument. At a time of intense budget pressures in Washington, DC, and economic struggles around the country, conservative estimates put our spending on the nuclear weapons arsenal at $30 billion a year. It is unwise to continue to invest billions of dollars in weapons we don’t need to keep us safe.

We encourage you to use this opportunity to announce further steps to reduce all types of nuclear weapons well below the levels required by the New START Treaty, engage the other nuclear weapons states on transparency and nuclear posture, and push for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Thank you for your leadership in reducing America’s reliance on nuclear weapons and bringing us closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.

Sincerely,

Continue reading

Your meeting at the White House

Thanks to you, the White House got a clear message about the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Campaign representatives meeting with Ben Rhodes, White House, May 2012

Daryl Kimball, with the Arms Control Association, Stephen Young, with Union of Concerned Scientists, and Kathy Crandall Robinson of Women’s Action for New Directions represented the leadership of CNWFW. John Isaacs of Council for a Livable World, Eric Sapp of American Values Network, and Stephen Colecchi of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Heather Hurlburt (not pictured) were also in attendance.

On May 7, 2012, members of the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World coordinating committee presented our petition with 50,000 signatures that you helped collect to Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications and speechwriting at the White House. This was the text of our petition:

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for supporting the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and for pledging to “put an end to outdated Cold War thinking.”  In the 21st century, nuclear weapons are a global security liability, not an asset. You must act now to reduce the nuclear danger and the role of nuclear weapons.

In the coming weeks, I urge you to end outdated U.S. nuclear war-fighting strategy, dramatically reduce the number of U.S. nuclear weapons and the number of submarines, missiles, and bombers that carry those weapons, and take U.S. nuclear weapons off high alert. Maintaining large numbers of nuclear forces on alert increases the risk of accident or miscalculation.

By taking these steps, you will facilitate reductions in Russia’s nuclear arsenal, encourage other nuclear-armed countries to join in reductions, and move us closer to a world free of nuclear weapons.

In the meeting, campaign representatives emphasized the grave danger that nuclear weapons pose to the world, and encouraged the President to use the current review of our nuclear weapons policy as an opportunity to make the world safer by reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.

Our colleagues spoke in depth with Mr. Rhodes about the recommendations in our petition, laying out why it would be in our nation’s best interests to change the current US nuclear war-fighting strategy and dramatically reduce the number of weapons in the US nuclear arsenal. They also spoke about the current alert status that has thousands of our weapons ready to launch in mere minutes, and why that policy should be changed, to reduce the risk of accidents or miscalculations leading to a devastating nuclear exchange.

We cannot share everything that was said in the meeting, but afterwards Mr. Rhodes sent this email:

The White House appreciates the engagement of citizens across our country who support efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the peace and security of a world without them. This type of grassroots activism is critical to build awareness around the dangers of nuclear weapons, and to support common sense arms control policies. We look forward to continued dialogue on these critical issues for U.S. and global security.

Thanks to your work gathering signatures, the Obama administration has heard your voice, and we have shown that when we work together to show the power of the grassroots, we can engage the White House in a substantive discussion about the urgency of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

The administration has not yet submitted their new policy to the Pentagon, so we can’t stop now. We will be following up the successful petition with a campaign to get grassroots organizations and NGOs across the country to write a letter to the White House to urge them, yet again, to make the most of this opportunity to change US nuclear weapons policy.

Thank you for everything you did to make this petition a success, to get 42 organizations across the country collecting over 50,000 signatures, and to show the Obama administration that ridding the world of nuclear weapons is an important issue to the American people.

A House Divided

The House of Representatives just can’t make up its mind. They have passed two pieces of legislation recently that directly conflict with each other regarding spending levels for certain nuclear weapons programs.

A small group of Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee seem to think that if they yell loudly enough, they can convince us all that the Cold War never ended. If you remember, in May the House voted on the Defense Authorization and we did this roundup on some of the crazy things this group was up to: attempting to reverse the New START treaty, escalating spending on nuclear bombs and facilities that we can’t afford, and even trying to prevent the President from reducing our nuclear arsenal at all.

Well, last week, the House voted on the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which approves the funding for some of the same programs covered in the Defense Authorization. So, here’s an update on some parts of the nuclear weapons budget and where they stand after these two contradictory measures.

New Los Alamos bomb plant

  • The House version of the budget did notfund the new bomb plant at Los Alamos. Now, this is what is strange. The Defense Authorization that passed last month had $100 million for this new plant, but this funding bill has $0. And both of these bills were written and passed by Republicans. Republicans working on the budget agreed with the Department of Energy and President Obama, that we don’t need this plant and it is a waste of money.
  • Now, because the funding bill does not provide any money for this plant, that should mean that the Los Alamos plant will indeed be delayed for this year. Which is a huge victory for the grassroots, because we have been arguing for years now that we do not need this plant and should not build it.
  • However, this isn’t final until the bills have also passed the Senate and a final version has been agreed upon. So we will continue to monitor the budget process in Congress, and make sure they save billions of taxpayer dollars by stopping this massive, unnecessary, over-priced nuclear bomb plant before it starts.

The right priorities for nonproliferation funding

  • In an exciting turn of events, Rep. Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, introduced an amendment on the floor that moves money between two different programs in the nuclear nonproliferation budget. It cut $17 million from the dangerous Mixed Oxide fuel plant project that would make nuclear fuel from weapons-grade plutonium, and is already horrendously over budget and behind schedule. And then moves that money to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, an important nonproliferation program that locks up loose nuclear material around the world. And, because the amendment was introduced by the Republican who chairs the committee, the amendment passed by a landslide, 328-89. See the roll call here.
  • The reason this is exciting is because this is a reversal of the past priorities for nonproliferation money, and this is exactly what we want to see happen. And having real bipartisan support on this amendment is a huge step forward. Unfortunately, the budget for the mixed-oxide program is still pretty huge, but we will work next year to build on this success and make even bigger cuts.

That’s enough for nonproliferation

  • Another amendment, from Rep. Loretta Sanchez, would have added another $16 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative mentioned above. Rep. Sanchez has been a tireless champion for this important program that has already removed more than 120 bombs worth of uranium and plutonium and has secured more than 900 vulnerable sites in more than 40 countries. Unfortunately, this amendment did not have the same kind of bipartisan support as the Fortenberry amendment, and it failed, 182-237. See the roll call here.

Wasting more money on nuclear weapons

  • The Obama administration this year asked for one of the biggest budgets for nuclear weapons ever, a total of $7.6 billion. But apparently feeling that we weren’t throwing enough money away on dangerous, outdated nuclear bombs, Republicans in the House wasted even more taxpayer dollars, creating a budget that totals almost $7.9 billion. Rep. Polis introduced an amendment on the floor that would have slashed that extra $298 million, and left the budget at $7.6 billion for 2013. The amendment failed 138-281. See the roll call here.

Nuclear bombs are not political pawns

This is part three in our series on the National Defense Authorization Act vote that concluded Friday morning. We’ve covered the Afghanistan vote, and some of the other issues addressed in the bill. Another topic of discussion in Congress this week was the status of our arsenal of nuclear warheads and related weapons systems.

The debate over the authorization bill this year basically boils down to a small group of Republicans who have gone off the deep end, and resorted to sneaky tactics to throw billions of dollars at nuclear weapons programs that even the Department of Energy and the Pentagon don’t think we need.

The bright side is that so many representatives were outraged by what the House Armed Services Committee had put in this bill, that they jumped into action with amendments. One congressional staffer told me they had never seen so many representatives all working on amendments to cut military and nuclear spending before. In fact, so many people were writing amendments, that Democrats ran out of ideas for things to cut! Here are some of the amendments about nuclear weapons that were offered.

New Los Alamos bomb plant

  • Based on his SANE Act, Rep. Ed Markey introduced this amendment to strip out money for a new nuclear bomb plant at Los Alamos, along with Reps. Sanchez and Johnson. The Department of Energy says we don’t need the plant, and the appropriations committees had already agreed not to fund it. But Republicans used sneaky procedural tactics to block this amendment from even coming up for a vote, leaving $100 million for the plant in the authorization bill. Thankfully, we have already seen that there is bipartisan support for cutting funding for this bomb plant, so we will work to keep this money out of the final version of the budget.

New nuclear bomber

  • This amendment, also by Rep. Markey with Reps. Welch and Conyers, would have delayed plans to start replacing our fleet of bomber planes to carry nuclear weapons. Delaying by 10 years would save up to $68 billion, money we really don’t need to spend on planes designed to fight 20th century wars. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated, 112-308. See the roll call here.

Blocking nuclear reductions

  • A group of Republicans in Congress are fighting tooth and nail to turn back the clock to the Cold War arms race. A few of them are trying to use the defense bill to block the New START Treaty, which was ratified by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, and prevent President Obama from making progress toward getting rid of all nuclear weapons.
  • Rep. Price’s amendment prohibits the president from reducing the nuclear arsenal and passed 241-179. See the roll call here.
  • Another amendment from Reps. Rehberg and Lummis bans any reductions to the arsenal while also mandating that we must keep all legs of ‘the triad,’ the bombers, missiles and submarines that we’ve been using to carry our nukes since the Cold War. It also passed, 238-162. See the roll call here.

Blocking nonproliferation programs

  • In a classic example of “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face,” Rep. Franks’ amendment blocks funds from being spent on important work to lock up dangerous nuclear material in Russia, until Russia promises to stop talking to countries we don’t like. Not cleaning up this material is very counterproductive as a “punishment,” since locking up this material will make the world a safer place for all of us, not just Russians. It passed, 241-181. See the roll call here.

Finally knowing what we spend

  • Reps. Larsen and Loretta Sanchez introduced an amendment to make the Department of Energy and the Pentagon finally provide a total accounting of all the costs involved with maintaining and modernizing our nuclear weapons. They have never had to add those numbers up before, and having this information would be immensely helpful to us in our efforts to cut nuclear spending. This was adopted into the bill in an en bloc (group) amendment.

There were several other amendments that would have done good things, like slashing extra funding for nuclear weapons and restoring crucial safety regulations for nuclear facilities. But those were also blocked from coming up for a vote by the Republicans.