Senate Nuke Caucus: Cutting the budget and making the world less secure
Democrats could control the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government right now, but a small, Republican-dominated coalition of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) wields outsized influence in a frightening campaign for nuclear rearmament.
The coalition, made up of six senators from states that house, develop or test ground-based underground nuclear weapons, pushes a costly and dangerous decades-long $ 1.7 trillion plan to produce new nuclear weapons, some with warheads 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
While the 1980s saw the nuclear freeze and a mass movement to demand nuclear disarmament between the United States and the Soviet Union, the 1990s gave birth to the missile caucus, the engine of Congress driving the United States in a new nuclear arms race.
All but one of this caucus are Republicans from a deep red state – including North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and South Dakota – which did not vote for Joe Biden. Members of the ICBM Senate Coalition are Co-Chairs John Hoeven (RN.D.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.); John Barrasso (R-Wyo.); Steve Daines (R-Mont); Mike Lee (R-Utah); and Mike Rounds (RS.D.).
Lone Democrat Tester, a third-generation farmer and former elementary school music teacher, wields a critical hammer as chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense, a committee that will draft the bill credits for military spending. Tester told the DC-based Alliance for Advanced Nuclear Weapons this year that he was determined to keep the production of new nuclear weapons “on track.”
If the ICBM Coalition and the arms lobby are successful, the United States will wield a new nuclear arsenal to, it says, replace aging and outdated nuclear weapons ill-suited to meet the challenges of a renewed Cold War. Critics accuse the development and production of new nuclear weapons of violating the spirit and letter of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1968.
In addition to violating a treaty to which 191 countries have joined, US production of new nuclear weapons is likely to intensify the arms race, sabotage future arms control negotiations with Russia or China, and encourage non-nuclear countries to enrich military grade uranium.
Although it was the Trump administration that awarded Northrop Grumman a $ 13.3 billion sole-source contract in 2020 to build new land-based nuclear missiles called Ground Based Strategic Deterrents (GBSD), it is the Biden administration which is expected to include, as part of its record military budget of $ 753 billion, $ 30 billion or more for the GBSD. This would be a down payment on the estimated cost of $ 264 billion to replace the 400 Minuteman III underground missiles in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and Colorado, from 2029 to 2075.
The GBSD is part of a euphemistic “nuclear modernization” program offering, in addition to the new ICBMs, new ballistic missile submarines equipped with low yield five kiloton tactical nuclear weapons, as opposed to nuclear weapons ” strategic ”larger than 100 kilotons. destined for a global nuclear showdown. The Trump administration’s 2018 nuclear posture review found that these “more usable” tactical nuclear weapons would keep the Russians and Chinese in check. Critics argue that these smaller, shorter-range tactical nuclear weapons blur the line between conventional warfare and nuclear war, making these weapons more likely to be employed under the mistaken assumption that nuclear war can be limited.
The push for rearmament, including a new nuclear cruise missile, a modified gravity bomb with a two-stage radiation implosion, and a long-range strike bomber, comes amid concern that anti-China rhetoric passionate about the Biden administration could plunge us into nuclear war. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg recently released classified documents revealing that US military leaders drew up plans in 1958 to carry out a nuclear first strike against China in a dispute over the sovereignty of Taiwan. According to the documents, Pentagon officials were prepared to risk a million deaths in case the Soviet Union retaliated with nuclear weapons. By releasing the classified documents and deliberately risking prosecution, Ellsberg told the New York Times: “I don’t think the participants were more stupid or thoughtless than those in between or in the current cabinet.
With Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Republicans and testers cheering on the GBSD, a missile caucus lobbyist might think the American people would rather spend hundreds of billions of dollars on new ICBMs and nearly two trillion dollars on the whole nuclear escalation package than investing in Medicare for All or in clean water in Flint, Michigan. A 2020 University of Maryland poll found, however, that 61% of Americans – including Democratic and Republican majorities – support the phase-out of the US’s 400 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Knowing this, why would Biden and Democratic politicians fulfill the mission of the Republican-dominated little missile caucus and his cronies in the profitable arms industry? Northrop Grumman, with a net worth of $ 50 billion, promises nuclear rearmament will create 10,000 jobs, but compare that number to the 3 million employed under FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps which planted 3 billion trees.
The answer to the question of why the Missile Caucus is so influential is: money. And a lot.
The ICBM’s armaments contractors contributed more than $ 15 million between 2012 and 2020 to members of the Senate and Armed Services and House Appropriations committees and subcommittees, according to the Arms Control Association. Steven Semler, co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute, notes that these entrepreneurs are even buying influence among members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), donating $ 376,650 last year to Democrat Adam Smith (D- Washington), Speaker of the Army House. Services Committee; $ 148,135 to Donald Norcross (DN.J.) and $ 63,086 to Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), All of which belong to the CPC.
While Biden may fear appearing “soft” on defense if he steps back from relaunching our nuclear program, progressives are bracing for a fierce debate. Opponents of the GBSD include an impressive diplomatic team: William Perry, former Secretary of Defense; Daniel Ellsberg, author, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner; and William Hartung, director of the arms and security program at the Center for International Policy.
Hartung, author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Creation of the Military-Industrial Complex, recommends removing ICBMs entirely. “Due to their extreme vulnerability to attack, ICBMs are kept on high alert, giving the president a few minutes to decide whether to launch them in the event of an imminent attack,” he said.
There is no law of gravity that compels the current president or Congress to continue funding this nuclear rearmament campaign.
Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd