ACTION ALERT: Cut Pentagon's Spending for B61 Nuclear Bomb
July 10, 2013
Ploughshares & Peace Action West & Friends Committee on National Legislation
The US is about to buy a B61 nuclear bomb that costs more than its weight in gold -- to fulfill a Cold War mission that no longer exists. On June 27, the Senate's Armed Services Subcommittee cut the B61’s budget by over 30%. Unfortunately, the House Appropriations Committee gave the B61 a $23 million increase. Rep. Quigley has offered an amendment to cut these extra funds. Let Congress know your concerns.
Meet the Budget-Busting B61 Nuclear Bomb
Benjamin Loehrke / Ploughshares
[Note: It was not clear at EAW deadline whether the Quigley amendment had come up for a vote on July 8. We are assuming the vote may be taken on Wednesday July 9.]
(July 9, 2013) -- The US is poised to spend $11.6 billion to upgrade a handful of nuclear bombs -- with each bomb costing more than twice its weight in gold. The bombs were originally put in Europe to roll back a Soviet land invasion. With the Cold War over, the costly bomb upgrades would rack up more debt while adding no benefit to our security.
How much gold are we talking about?
Each of the 700-pound bombs would cost $28.9 million. The same amount of gold would be worth $12.4 million.
What else could the US buy with the money? We could relive student debt for 500,000 people or operate the American Red Cross for more than three years. This money saved would avoid the need to cut salaries for US troops by a proposed $540 million and would fully fund programs to keep vulnerable nuclear materials away from terrorists.
Why are the bombs still there?
In the 1960s, the US based B61 bombs and thousands of other tactical nuclear weapons in Europe to deter the Soviets. If the Red Army invaded Western Europe, NATO was to use nuclear weapons in the battlefield in the opening moves of World War III.
The Cold War ended. The Soviet Union collapsed. President George H.W. Bush unilaterally removed these bombs by the thousands in 1992. President George W. Bush removed several hundred more. Two hundred B61 bombs remain in Europe today.
NATO allies are divided about whether to keep the nuclear bombs, with countries like Germany and the Netherlands openly discussing removing the bombs from their soil. However, a small minority of NATO allies cling to the bombs as a political symbol of America's commitment to their security.
So the US sticks to the status quo -- keeping nuclear bombs in Europe for their perceived political value within NATO.
The Pentagon now wants to upgrade the last remaining bombs -- making them "more accurate" and more "usable." But where would the US use these bombs?
The Soviet Union is no more. Nobody wants nuclear war in Europe. In any case, the planes that would carry these weapons couldn't reach most Russian targets without refueling along the way.
Is there a clear military mission that could not be performed by either US strategic forces or US conventional forces? According to Gen. James Cartwright, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (testifying at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on April 8, 2010), the answer is "no."
Meanwhile, the US is spending $11.5 billion to keep these weapons based in Europe. NATO spends no money on this program.
The B61 bomb program costs more than 8 out of 10 NATO allies' yearly military budgets.
The New York Times noted on May 26, 2013: "The Cold War is long over, and no American military commander can conceive of [nuclear bombs] ever being used. Even so, President Obama has put $537 million in his 2014 budget proposal to upgrade these bombs."
Cutting Budgets, Cutting Bombs
Benjamin Loehrke / Ploughshares
(June 27, 2013) -- Two years ago, when talk of "fiscal responsibility" began to dominate the political discussion, Ploughshares Fund realized that we had an unprecedented opportunity to tilt Washington's budget axe toward the nuclear weapons complex. So we organized and funded a campaign to reduce spending on nuclear weapons.
Before we began our campaign, nuclear spending was surging, Washington was clueless about the costs and plans were racing ahead to upgrade the entire nuclear arsenal and keep it in place until the end of the century.
Through the campaign, we got the public's attention by pointing out what nuclear weapons cost -- an estimated $640 billion over the next decade. We worked with leading voices in Congress to encourage them to scale back wasteful nuclear weapons programs.
Today, the nuclear spending tide is beginning to stem -- in part because of the dedication of our partners in our nuclear budget campaign.
Already, our campaign has seen major successes. Last year, a $6 billion plutonium bomb plant -- which our grantees like Nuke Watch New Mexico and the Project on Government Oversight had loudly challenged for years -- was effectively cancelled. Congress also cut $60 million from a failing plutonium fuel project, with strong support from our partners like Taxpayers for Common $ense and the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
This year, we're working to cut a bomb.
Right now, our champions in Congress are pursuing cuts to an $11.9 billion nuclear bomb -- the B61. These so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons have been stationed in Europe since early in the Cold War. They were meant to deter the Russians from invading Europe, but lost their strategic purpose when the Soviet Union dissolved.
That's why Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew nearly all of them. But some NATO members want the last 200 bombs to stay in Europe as a political symbol of American commitment to NATO.
It's a symbol we can't afford. The US is set to spend $11.9 billion to upgrade these aging bombs -- with each bomb costing more than twice its weight in solid gold. But the bombs are not relevant for today's world, and every dollar spent on them is a dollar that isn't used to address the security challenges of the 21st century.
That's why there is increasing support for cutting the B61 bomb program. Concerned veterans involved with the VoteVets.org, a Ploughshares Fund grantee, are reaching out to their representatives in Congress and asking them to cut the bomb.
Twenty-four national religious organizations -- organized by our grantee David Culp of the Friends Committee on National Legislation -- are urging Congress to reject funding the bomb. And, as a product of the work done by many of our partners, even The New York Times has come out against the B61 program.
It's too soon to say what Congress will do. Cutting funds for the B61 would be a welcome sign of fiscal sanity and could eliminate the most wasteful elements of the program. If Congress were to scrap the B61 all together, it could bring about the end for US tactical nuclear weapons -- erasing a dangerous legacy of the Cold War.
Whatever the outcome, we are certain that -- thanks to the work of our budget campaign -- Congress is stunned with the sticker shock of nuclear weapons. The grim fate of the B61 bomb program is the first major sign that Congress is ready to end the nuclear spending spree.
This is bigger than the B61. Budget frustration will set the tone for the coming years as the US recasts its nuclear policy -- questioning how many weapons it afford and how many it can shed.
We would answer "fewer" and "thousands."
ACTION ALERT: Cut Pentagon's Nuclear Weapons Budget
Katie Heald, Deputy Political Director / Peace Action West
(July 8, 2013) -- 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 will come to the floor of the House as soon as today, and Rep. Quigley (D-IL) 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 and urge your Representative to vote yes on the Quigley amendment to cut funding for the B61 nuclear bomb. Use this sample as a guide:
“My name is [your name] and I live in [your city]. I am calling to tell Rep. Barbara Lee to vote for the Quigley amendment to the Appropriations bill to cut excess funds 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.
Katie Heald, Deputy Political Director
Peace Action West • 2201 Broadway, Ste 321 Oakland, CA 94612. 800.949.9020
Vote Could Happen on July 8 or July 9
(July 8, 2013) -- As early as this evening, the House will vote on the bill that funds nuclear weapons. We need your help to eliminate funding for an expensive, outdated nuclear weapon that’s costing us billions of dollars.
The B61 nuclear bomb is a relic of the 1960s -- yet the federal government wants to upgrade the weapon at a total possible cost of over $10 billion. All this for a bomb that is unnecessary and outdated.
Please tell your Representative to vote for the amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) which will cut funds for the B61 nuclear bomb.
The vote could come up tonight or tomorrow. Click here to email your Member of Congress now. Or you can call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask for your representative.
The Republican-controlled House has its fair share of nuclear hawks, so cutting nuclear weapons spending is an uphill battle. But we know we can win this one – if enough representatives feel the pressure.
That pressure comes from constituents like you -- and it has to come today. E-mail or call your representative at (202) 224-3121 right now.
If you're calling, you can use this sample message:
“My name is [your name] and I live in [your town]. I am calling to tell Rep. [your rep’s name] to vote for the Quigley amendment to the Energy & Water Appropriations bill to cut excess funds for the B61 nuclear bomb."
This is an important chance to cut wasteful spending on dangerous and outdated nuclear weapons. You can convince Congress to make this a priority.
Thank you for your help.
John Isaacs & Guy Stevens
Call Today: Say No to New Nuclear Weapons Funding
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary / Friends Committee on National Legislation
(July 8, 2013) -- In the next 24 hours, your representative will have a chance to cut funding for nuclear weapons. Please ask your representative to vote "yes" on the Quigley amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.
The vote could come tomorrow evening, so please call today, toll-free, 877-429-0678 and ask to be connected to your representative's office. (You can look up his or her name here.)
Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley is proposing this amendment to cut nearly $24 million from the budget to refurbish the B61 nuclear bomb, the oldest weapon in the U.S. arsenal. This $24 million is money that House appropriators added to President Obama's budget request for this program.
FCNL would like to see far more than $24 million cut from the nuclear weapons budget, of course. We'd like to see it come down to zero. But even lawmakers who support nuclear weapons can agree that the US shouldn't spend an extra $24 million to rebuild nuclear bombs.
With nearly 16 million children living in poverty in our country, and with budget cuts threatening even the most effective programs to help families in need, adding more money to the nuclear weapons budget doesn't make sense.
Please call your representative today with this simple message:
Hello, my name is [NAME] and I live in [CITY, STATE]. I'd like to ask Representative [NAME] to vote "yes" on the Quigley amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill to cut nuclear weapons funding. Can you tell me if the representative supports this amendment?
You can reach your representative at 877-429-0678. Thank you for your action.