Let the Debate begin.
From the New York Times Editorials, 10/30/11...
"...In his push to win votes for the New Start treaty, Mr. Obama gave away far too much to balking Republican senators. He promised to invest an extra $85 billion over 10 years for the nuclear labs to maintain and modernize the arsenal, including overhauling thousands of older bombs that should be retired. He proposed spending $125 billion over the next decade for a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, 100 new bombers, a new land-based intercontinental ballistic missile and two other missiles.
Senior military officials acknowledge that hard decisions must be made — including possibly eliminating one leg of the nuclear triad. In July, Gen. James Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for a reassessment of where nuclear weapons fit in today’s world.
All Americans need to be part of that discussion, as does the Congressional “supercommittee,” charged with coming up with a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Here are sound cuts for the nuclear budget:
*Senator Tom Coburn, one of the few Republicans to support nuclear reductions, has called for cutting the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,220, the ballistic missile submarine fleet to 11 from 14, and intercontinental ballistic missiles to 300 from 500. He also favors delaying the purchase of new bombers until the mid 2020s. Total savings, according to Mr. Coburn, would be at least $79 billion over the next decade. It is a smart beginning.
*Don’t modernize the B61 tactical nuclear bombs in Europe. No one can imagine that the United States would ever use a nuclear weapon on a European battlefield, and Washington is in discussions with NATO to bring them home to be dismantled. If the Europeans want to keep them for political reasons, let them pick up the tab. Savings: $1.6 billion.
*Halt construction of the new plutonium storage facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Costs have increased tenfold, and there are serious safety questions about the location — along a fault line and near an active volcano. Savings: $2.9 billion.
*Halt construction of the Energy Department’s Savannah River facility that is supposed to recycle plutonium from dismantled weapons into mox, a fuel for nuclear power plants. The sole customer for the fuel dropped the contract. Savings: $4 billion.
*Cancel the uranium processing facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight says that with $100 million in upgrades, another facility there can do the work. Savings: $6 billion.
*Down-blend more of the 400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium in United States weapons stocks for sale to nuclear power plants. The administration has neglected this, while investing in programs that increase the life of nuclear warheads. Revenue: $23 billion.
The country will need some number of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future. And it must ensure that they are safe and reliable. But spending on the arsenal must be rational and consistent with national security goals — not driven by inertia or politics."
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