Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rep. Blumenauer on nuclear weapons: "There is no one left to deter"

Representative Earl Blumenauer, Oregon, has just introduced legislation to reduce spending on our nation's nuclear arsenal - HR 4107, the Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Investments Now (REIN-IN) Act of 2014. Senator Edward Markey has introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S 2070, the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act.

We must resist the current push to modernize and rebuild the nuclear arsenal, which has huge economic impact and presents even greater risks. Blumenauer's and Markey's bills are an important first step in engaging a dialogue, and hopefully making headway in the monumental task of chipping away at the nuclear monster.

Both Blumenauer and Markey understand that the archaic doctrine of strategic nuclear deterrence is no longer relevant and cannot be used to justify our continued reliance on nuclear weapons.  And yet, that is just how the Navy is justifying the production of a new generation of ballistic missile submarines - 12 submarines at an estimated construction cost of $100 billion.

The current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines was originally intended (as a deterrent) to hold the Soviet Union under the threat of annihilation should they have launched a nuclear attack against us. Of course, the Cold War ended well over two decades ago and that threat is long past. As Rep. Blumenauer said in his speech to the House of Representatives earlier this month, 

"There is no one left to deter."

Here is the full, unedited text of Rep. Blumenauer's speech:


“Mr. Speaker, before turning to the subject at hand, I really hope that people look at the CBO report that was referenced by my good friend from Pennsylvania, and you will find that the 2 million people who would no longer be working, are not going to increase unemployment. The unemployment rate will be lower. There are people who are trapped in the workforce now because they can’t afford health care. The Affordable Care Act will actually enable some people to retire who want to retire or stop working a second job. Read the report and find out that this is actually a very positive signal.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer
But, Mr. Speaker, I am here today to reference something else that was in the newspapers. The papers are filled with scandal about the nuclear weapons program. The real scandal is not the cheating or drug use by people with their finger on the nuclear button. The scandal is that these people are there on the job at all, with these nuclear weapons; jobs and nuclear weapons that should no longer exist.

Don’t get me wrong. The alleged drug use by the people who stand watch daily with a finger on the nuclear trigger, or that were cheating on their proficiency exams, is outrageous, but it is scandalous that we are frozen in time linked to a nuclear Cold War past and committed to wildly wasteful spending.

These are weapons that have never been used in 69 years, that did not deter the 9/11 attackers, and cannot help us in our major strategic challenges today. They have never been used in battle since World War II, but they have almost been used by miscalculation and mistake.

In Eric Schlosser’s recent book called “Command and Control,” there are terrifying examples of what were termed “broken arrows,” nuclear mishaps.

A nuclear bomb was accidentally released over South Carolina, landing in Walter Greg’s backyard, leaving a 75-foot wide, 30-foot crater, leveling his home. Luckily, it failed to trigger the nuclear explosion.

In North Carolina, a B-52 fell into a tailspin carrying two hydrogen bombs, each 250 times more powerful than Hiroshima.

There were numerous instances when our bomber fleet, which used to be on the runway idling, on alert 24/7, was prone to catching on fire while packed with nuclear bombs.

A few years ago, there was a B-52 which flew across the country unknowingly carrying six nuclear-armed air-launched missiles.

By no stretch of the imagination, do we need these 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles on alert, plus nuclear armed bombers, all on top of our nuclear submarine-based missiles? We don’t need a fraction of this weaponry. At most, we need perhaps one scaled-down system. There is nobody left to deter. We are competing in Russia in the Winter Olympics right now.

A small portion of one of these delivery systems is all the nuclear deterrence we could ever possibly need. The larger and more complex the infrastructure is not just more expensive, but more prone to mistake.

We are talking about upwards of $700 billion over the next 10 years in operations, modernization, new systems, new nuclear submarines. It is outrageous. It is dangerous. Let me put that in context. $750 billion is more than the Federal Government will spend on education in its entirety in the next 5 years.

It is time for Congress and the American people to put an end to this”, said Rep. BLUMENAUER

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