UN 'Running Out of Cash' and Facing Urgent Cuts: Retiring Just One Nuclear Missile Could Save the UN's Mission
August 2, 2018 The Guardian & The Basel Peace Office & Union of Concerned Scientists
The UN is facing an unprecedented shortage of funding for its core budget. 112 out of 193 member states have paid their share; the US, Argentina, Syria, Venezuela and Belarus have not. If the US retired just one Trident missile, the money saved could cover the UN deficit. Better yet, if all the nuclear armed States abandoned plans to upgrade their nuclear weapons, the nearly $100 billion saved could be re-directed into job creation, climate protection, education, health, peace, diplomacy and sustainable security.
UN 'Running Out of Cash' and Facing Urgent Cuts, Warns Chief Letter sent to member states by Antonio Guterres
reveals $139 million deficit in core budget Peter Beaumont / The Guardian and agencies
GENEVA (July 27, 2018) -- Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, has warned that the organisation is facing an unprecedented shortage of funding for its core budget and will need to make urgent cuts unless member states pay up.
The alarm was raised in letters, seen by the Guardian and other news organisations, sent by Guterres to member states and staff.
Guterres told member states that the UN's core budget was in the red more deeply and earlier in its financial year than it had ever previously experienced. He added that, as of 30 June, core funding had a deficit of $139 million (£106 million), and said the UN had "never faced such a difficult cash flow situation this early in the calendar year".
In a second letter sent to staff, seen by the Guardian, Guterres underlined the UN's precarious finances.
"Caused primarily by the delayed contributions of member states to the regular budget, this new cash shortfall is unlike those we have experienced previously," he wrote, warning the funding crisis posed a risk both to the organisation's operations and "reputation".
"Our cash flow has never been this low so early in the calendar year, and the broader trend is also concerning: we are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer," wrote Guterres. "An organisation such as ours should not have to suffer repeated brushes with bankruptcy. But surely, the greater pain is felt by those we serve when we cannot, for want of modest funds, answer their call for help. Guterres wrote.
The UN general assembly budget committee agreed in December on a $5.4 billion core UN budget for 2018-19, which US ambassador Nikki Haley said was a cut of $285 million from 2016-17. UN peacekeeping is funded separately.
According to the UN, 112 out of 193 member states have so far paid their share of the core budget. The US, which is responsible for 22% of the budget, traditionally pays later because of its budget year.
The countries that have so far failed to pay include the US, Argentina, Syria, Venezuela and Belarus.
By July last year, 116 countries had paid, compared with 98 in 2016. China, France, Russia and Britain -- the permanent members of the UN Security Council along with the US -- are all paid up for 2018.
Guterres told staff he was concerned with a broader trend. "We are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer," he said, adding that the UN would take measures to reduce expenses with a focus on non-staff costs.
Haley came to the UN in January last year pushing for reform of the world body in a bid to cut costs. "The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked," she said in December, when the core budget was agreed.
Under UN rules, if a country is in arrears by an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for the previous two years, it can lose its general assembly vote unless able to show that its inability to pay is beyond its control.
Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia are significantly in arrears but have been allowed to retain their vote. Only Libya is unable to vote.
(July 31, 2018) -- Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global campaign to cut the nuclear weapons budget and reinvest this money in economic and environmental needs, has called for re-allocation of a portion of nuclear weapons budgets to assist the UN cash crisis.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week warned member states and UN staff that the United Nations is $140 million short of its budget and could run out of cash, due to late and non-payment of UN dues by member states.
The 2018 UN budget of $5.4 billion is already $285 million less than the UN's 2017 budget, and in comparison is less than the annual budget of the New York police force ($5.58 billion).
'This is an absurdly low budget for an organisation with global programs and responsibilities for peace, security, health, sustainable development, disaster prevention and relief, human rights, law and the environment,' says Thies Kätow, policy research officer for the World Future Council. 'Meanwhile, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are spending nearly 20 times this amount on nuclear weapons alone.'
'If the US retires just one Trident nuclear missile from their arsenal, the money saved could be used to wipe out the current UN deficit,' says Alyn Ware, Director of the Basel Peace Office and Co-founder of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money.
'Better yet, if all the nuclear armed States abandoned their plans to upgrade their nuclear weapons systems, nearly $100 billion could be saved. This could then re-directed into the economy for job creation, climate protection, education, health, peace, diplomacy and sustainable security.'
Trident II missile. The cost of one of these could meet the current UN deficit of $140 million.
PNND Co-President Senator Ed Markey has introduced the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act into the US Senate to drastically cut nuclear weapons programs and curtail nuclear modernization. 'It is time we inserted some desperately-needed sanity into America's budget priorities," says Senator Markey. 'We should fund education, not annihilation.'
'Unfortunately, Senator Markey is unable to move a majority of the US Senate to support his act due to the lobbying power of the companies which are manufacturing the nuclear weapons systems,' says Mr Ware. 'We can reduce this pro-nuclear lobbying power, and encourage the companies to get out of the nuclear weapons business, by nuclear weapons divestment. Already four governments and a number of cities, religious institutions, banks and pension funds have done so.'
'Next week parliamentarians, faith communities and peace organisations around the world will commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,' says Vanda Proskova, PNND Research Officer. 'Amongst the many actions around the world will be calls for further divestment from nuclear weapons corporations.'
Basel Peace Office encourages anyone interested in nuclear divestment actions during Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days, or after, to visit Move the Nuclear Weapons Money or to contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to report on your action.
* Encourage divestment from companies manufacturing nuclear weapons and their delivery systems;
* Reallocate these budgets and investments to meet economic, social and environmental need -- such as ending poverty, protecting the climate, supporting renewable energy, creating jobs, and providing adequate healthcare, housing and education for all.
The campaign was launched in October 2016 by the Basel Peace Office, International Peace Bureau, World Future Council and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. It now includes a number of other organisations and networks including the Global Security Institute, UNFOLD ZERO, World Federalist Movement and the Abolition 2000 Working Group on Economic Dimensions of Nuclearism.
The campaign works closely with the Global Campaign on Military Spending.
Move the Nuclear Weapons Money thanks the following for their financial support: * Ben Cohen, Co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice-cream * Grassroots Foundation * Frank Otto * World Future Council
Submarine Launched Trident PEM-1 Launch Failure. August 26, 2008
(November 2013) -- Z. Witmond of New York, NY, asks: "How much does it cost to create a single nuclear weapon?" The question is answered by Senior Scientist & Co-Director of the UCS Global Security Program Lisbeth Gronlund, Ph.D.
There isn't a simple answer to this question, in part because government data on the costs associated with nuclear weapons are often inconsistent or incomplete. (The most authoritative publicly available information is from Atomic Audit, published in 1998.)
Nuclear weapons have two basic parts: the warhead or bomb, and the delivery system. The United States has bombs that can be delivered by aircraft and warheads that are deployed on air-launched cruise missiles and land-based and submarine-based long-range missiles. The Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for building and maintaining the warheads and bombs, while the Department of Defense (DOD) takes care of the delivery systems.
The United States hasn't built a new nuclear warhead or bomb since the 1990s, but it has refurbished several types in recent years to extend their lifetime. The DOE is currently refurbishing as many as 2,000 submarine-based W76 warheads at a cost of roughly $2 million each.
Next up for life extension is the B61 bomb. It will undergo much more extensive modifications than the W76, and the estimated price tag reflects this: It will cost $8 billion to $10 billion to refurbish 400 to 500 B61 bombs -- about $20 million each.
The United States plans to replace its entire arsenal with a suite of five new weapon types over the next 25 to 30 years, violating the spirit if not the letter of President Obama's 2010 pledge not to develop new nuclear warheads. Dubbed "3+2," the plan would result in three weapon types for long-range missiles, and two for delivery by aircraft. One would be deployed on an air-launched cruise missile and one would be a bomb.
Ultimately, the plan calls for some 3,000 of these new weapons at an estimated cost of $60 billion, or $20 million each. However, it likely will be cheaper to renovate the B61 than build one of these new weapons, so $60 billion probably underestimates the cost.
The delivery systems are more expensive: The Minuteman III land-based missiles, which carry one warhead, cost about $50 million each in today's dollars. The DOD is modifying them to extend their lifetime at a cost of about $15 million each. Thus, the cost of each deployed land-based nuclear weapon would be roughly $85 million.
The DOD also is modifying Trident submarine-based missiles -- which initially cost about $100 million each -- to extend their lifetimes at a cost of about $140 million apiece.
The Navy's plan is to replace 12 of its nuclear-armed submarines starting next decade, at a cost of some $8 billion each. Each new submarine would carry 16 Trident missiles that likely would have four warheads, for a total of 64 warheads per vessel. Thus, the total cost for each submarine-based nuclear warhead would be roughly $200 million.
The W80 warhead, meanwhile, is deployed on air-launched cruise missiles and would be delivered by B52 bombers. The cruise missiles cost roughly $1 million each. The bombers, which were built back in the 1950s at a cost of $650 million each in today's dollars, can carry 12 cruise missiles -- for a per warhead cost of $55 million. Adding in the cost of a new warhead would bring the total to $75 million per deployed weapon.
Finally, B61 and B83 bombs would be delivered by B2 bombers -- the so-called stealth bomber. It cost some $80 billion to develop and build 21 of these planes, or $4 billion per B2 bomber, and the current life extension program will cost $10 billion. Each can carry up to 16 bombs, so the total cost of each deployed bomb would be roughly $270 million, taking into account its share of the bomber.
What does all this add up to? Assuming the DOE and DOD plans move forward, and the United States makes further modest reductions in its deployed and reserve arsenal (to a total of 3,000 weapons) the United States will spend some $250 billion on new nuclear warheads and delivery systems in the next few decades. That's roughly equal to 30 years of federal funding for Head Start programs for kids at 2012 enrollment levels.
Dr. Gronlund's research has focused on technical issues related to nuclear terrorism and fissile material controls, US nuclear weapons policy and new nuclear weapons, space weapons, and ballistic missile defenses. She holds a Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society.
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