Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

How Big a Nuclear Arsenal Do We Really Need?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

How Big a Nuclear Arsenal Do We Really Need?

Article excerpt

If President Obama wants to use his last two years to further his agenda, here's something he could do that would advance the cause of global security and save the country money: suspend plans to develop a new arsenal of American nuclear weapons.

Mr. Obama started his presidency with a sharp focus on reducing the world nuclear threat, and he had considerable initial success. As columnist Jim Hoagland wrote in 2010, "President Obama has turned the once utopian-sounding idea of global nuclear disarmament into a useful tool for U.S. foreign policy."

But by 2011, his plans to secure all nuclear materials from terrorists, stop new nuclear states and shrink global arsenals had slowed to a crawl.

While his promised policies to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons lagged, the Pentagon and Congress raced ahead with plans to buy a whole new generation of nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and missiles. Over the next few years, government actions could lock in spending on these new weapons programs for the next 50 years.

Unless something is done soon, we will lay out as much as a trillion dollars over the next few decades to replace our obsolete Cold War nuclear arsenal. We will buy thousands of new hydrogen bombs and mount them on hundreds of new missiles and planes. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next 10 years alone, the government will lay out $570 billion for new nuclear weapons and related programs such as missile defense.

Proponents claim the spending is necessary to assure the nation's security. But history shows that buildups like this trigger new arms races, inspiring other nations to match or exceed our capabilities.

Already, the Pentagon has submitted its wish list for the next budget to the president, and in coming weeks, Mr. Obama will finalize the budget and submit it to Congress. This will be his "legacy" budget, as one senior defense official said. It will be his last big chance to change the country's approach to nuclear spending.

The president should submit a budget to Congress that suspends spending on new nuclear weapon programs. …

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