Today is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. It is probably a good time to review our own nuclear weapons.
From the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
Given this lack of attention to nuclear weapons, it’s not surprising that in August 2007 a B-52 accidentally flew six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles across the country, from North Dakota to Louisiana, or that four nuclear-missile fuses were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006. Gates was correct to hold Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne responsible for their lack of attention to nuclear weapons. But the bigger issue is why the Pentagon still needs to keep so many nuclear weapons in its inventory nearly two decades after the Cold War–particularly when just about everyone in the military believes they present minimal strategic utility. General Cartwright, who in 2007 moved from STRATCOM to become Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said as much. In Congressional testimony on March 8, 2007, he declared, “As good as [U.S. conventional weapons] are, we simply cannot be everywhere with our general purpose conventional forces, and use of a nuclear weapon in a prompt response may be no choice at all.”
At the height of the Cold War, the United States possessed more than 30,000 nuclear warheads in its inventory. Today, Washington continues to maintain nearly 10,000 warheads. Reducing that number to no more than 1,000 (600 operational and 400 in reserve) would be more than enough for deterrence; one of the last air force officers to command STRATCOM, Gen. Eugene Habiger, has actually suggested this number. Doing so would allow the air force hierarchy to direct its attention and resources to the challenges of the twenty-first century. According to the recently fired Secretary Wynne, the air force has a budget shortfall of $100 million over the next five years because the baseline defense budget is projected to decline in real terms over this period.
More importantly, reducing our own nuclear arsenal would enable the United States to gain the moral high ground in nonproliferation matters and in our increasingly tense relations with Russia. What better way to enhance our negotiating position with the North Koreans and Iranians than by our living up to Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which obliges us to reduce and eventually eliminate our nuclear stockpile in exchange for others not developing these weapons? And what better way to negotiate a new nuclear reduction treaty with Russia and enhance the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program than by reducing our own nuclear arsenal?
Several months ago, I pointed all of my readers to a simple graphic that the New York Times had on their website. It was an interactive graphic in which you could fix the budget. I’d like to return to this graphic and show how very simple it is to fix the budget with some simple fixes. If you do not adhere to rigid ideology we can fix this. Remember, our goal is a combination of short-term and long-term savings.
Domestic Programs and Foreign Aid
Cut foreign aid in half – we can save $17 billion. Let’s hold on this for now. I think that foreign aid is extremely important.
Eliminate earmarks – yes, we need to eliminate earmarks. I just don’t see that earmarks helps us or our democracy. This saves $14 billion.
Eliminate farm subsidies – since most of our farm subsidies go to large corporations, I don’t think that this really helps us. Cutting this will save us another $14 billion.
Cutting paper civilian federal workers by 5% – this would save $14 billion in the short term and $17 billion in the long term. I don’t think this helps our financial situation and it hurts federal workers. I would not support this.
Reduce the federal workforce by 10% – this would save $12 billion in the short term and $15 billion in the long term. Cutting jobs hurts the economy. I wouldn’t do it.
Cut 250,000 government contractors – I would do this. This would save $17 billion both in the short term and the long term.
Cutting other federal programs – this would include reducing funds to the Smithsonian and cutting our National Park Service. This would add up to $30 billion both in the short term and in the long term. I do not support this.
Cutting aid to states by 5% – this would save $29 billion in the short term and $42 billion in the long-term. States are hurting. By cutting aid to states, states will then turn around and cut jobs. This will hurt our long-term growth. I would not support it.
Reduce nuclear arsenal and space spending – this would reduce our near-term deficit by $19 billion and our long-term deficit by $38 billion. This would reduce our nuclear warheads from around 2002 closer to 1000. I do support this.
Reduce military to pre-war size and further reduce troops in Asia and Europe – this would save $25 billion in the short term and $49 billion in the long term. I think that this is a must.
Reduce Navy and Air Force fleets – this would reduce the Navy by 48 ships and retire 37 ships early. The Air Force would retire two tactical fighter wings and reduce the number of fighter jets that are currently planned to be purchased. This would save $19 billion in the short term and $24 billion in the long term.
Cancel or delay some weapons systems – there are some weapons systems, like the Osprey, that have been around for years. These have had some modest success, but I think they need to be eliminated. Put them back in moth balls of necessary. This would save $19 billion in the short term and $18 billion in the long term.
Reduce non-combat military compensation and overhead – this would change health-care plans for military personnel who were not injured in battle. I do not support this. Although this would save $23 billion in the short term and $51 billion in the long term, I think we need to meet our obligations to our military personnel.
Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 60,000 by 2013 – we need to bring our troops home. They need to come home as quickly as possible. This would save $86 billion in the short term and $169 billion in the long-term.
So far, we have saved $213 billion in the short term (2015) and $343 billion in the long term (2030). I think that all of these cuts are reasonable. We still have more work to do. We need to talk about healthcare, Social Security and our existing tax structure. Let’s do a little bit more of this later.
As usual, I don’t understand Republican obstructionism. The new START treaty needs to be ratified. What is their thoughtful objection?
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has become the face of GOP obstruction regarding President Obama’s push for the Senate to ratify the New START nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. Without the treaty in place, the U.S. has no legal authority to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal. And if New START isn’t ratified, not only will U.S.-Russian relations suffer but so will American credibility on issues such as Iran and nonproliferation. “The world’s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl,” the New York Times editorialized this week referring to Kyl’s obstruction. Today on MSNBC, Sen. Rich Lugar (R-IN) urged Republicans such as Kyl to support the treaty and called on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to hold a vote on it in this lame-duck session of Congress:
LUGAR: Please do your duty for your country. We do not have verification of the Russian nuclear posture right now. We’re not going to have it until we sign the START treaty. We’re not going to be able to get rid of further missiles and warheads aimed at us. I state it candidly to my colleagues, one of those warheads…could demolish my city of Indianapolis — obliterate it! Now Americans may have forgotten that. I’ve not forgotten it and I think that most people who are concentrating on the START treaty want to move ahead to move down the ladder of the number of weapons aimed at us.
More on the New START treaty here, here and here.