By John LaForge
Nukewatch Winter Quarterly 2018-19
Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to cut back on some of the Trump/Obama nuclear weapons production programs, and curb presidential nuclear attack authority.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., joined Ted Lieu, D-CA and others in introducing HR 6840, the Hold the LYNE – Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive – Act. Tri-Valley CAREs in Livermore California reports that the bill would prohibit funds from being used for research, development, production or deployment of the new nuclear warhead. The bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, and Lieu promises to re-introduce the measure in 2019.
Rep. Smith has criticized the $1.7 trillion, 30-year plan to upgrade the US nuclear arsenal—land-based missiles, submarines, and heavy bombers—as both unaffordable and dangerous, Politico reports. “There’s no such thing as a low-yield nuclear war,” says Rep. Lieu; and Smith warns that the proposed nuclear weapon “brings us no advantage and it is dangerously escalating,” Politico reported.
Rep. Lieu and Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA, have also introduced HR669 and its tandem measure S200, the Restricting First-Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. The legislation, now with 82 co-sponsors, would prohibit a president from launching a nuclear first-strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Rep. Lieu’s office told Nukewatch Nov. 4 that he will reintroduce the measure in the upcoming session.
Key Democrats have also targeted a proposed $100 billion replacement for today’s land-based Minuteman III missiles dubbed “Ground Based Strategic Deterrent” now in early development. “The rationale for the triad I don’t think exists anymore. The rationale for the numbers of nuclear weapons doesn’t exist anymore,” Rep. Smith said to a recent gathering of the Ploughshares Fund.
“But pork-barrel politics and campaign cash are slowing disarmament,” the Huffington Post reported. Current and future land-based missile are championed by the “ICBM Coalition,” a group of House and Senate members from states where the missiles are deployed, tested or repaired—Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, Utah, Nebraska, Colorado, California, and Louisiana.
But high-level critics want them abolished and are pushing back. Former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and Leon Panetta both want current ICBMs scrapped and plans for their replacement cancelled. Last year Sec. Panetta told Reuters news service, “There is no question that out of the three elements of the triad, the Minuteman missiles are at a stage now where they’re probably the most antiquated.” In a series of articles published in major papers, Sec. Perry and General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argue that, “the United States can safely phase out its land-based intercontinental ballistic missile force,” and “save about $100 billion over the next three decades.” And they wrote, “We are safer without these expensive weapons and it would be foolish to replace them.”
What you can do: Call, email or write your Representatives and Senators urging them to co-sponsor bills to cancel low-yield nuclear warheads, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, and the president’s sole nuclear war-making authority.