Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nuclear Issues: SANE Act to Cut U.S. Nukes Budget

By Jamshed Baruah
Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsReport

BERLIN (IDN) - If you are 'sane', you are mentally sound. U.S. Congressman Edward J. Markey has lent a new dimension to that word by introducing the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act of 2012 that cuts $100 billion over the next decade on outdated nuclear weapons programmes.

Markey, who is Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), took to the House floor on February 8, 2012 to decry the wasteful spending in America's nuclear weapons programmes. SANE has 34 co-sponsors.

"It is insane that Republicans are proposing to block the automatic defense cuts mandated by the debt deal while America’s nuclear weapons budget teems with billions in wasteful spending," said Markey, senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and founder of the Bipartisan Nonproliferation Task Force.

"It is insane to spend hundreds of billions on new nuclear bombs and delivery systems to fight a long-past Cold War while ignoring our 21st century security needs and seeking to cut Medicare, Medicaid and social programs that millions of Americans depend on. The SANE Act will cut spending on outdated, wasteful nuclear weapons and related programs over the next ten years and will strengthen our long-term economic and national security," Markey said.

The Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act of 2012 will in particular:

- Cut the current fleet of nuclear submarines from 12 operational at sea to eight operational at sea, saving $3 billion

- Delay the purchase of new nuclear submarines saving $17 billion

- Reduce the number of ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), typically designed for launching nukes, saving $6 billion

- End the nuclear missions of air bombers saving up to $17 billion

- Delay new bomber program saving $18 billion

- Cancel new, wasteful nuclear weapons facilities saving $15 billion

The legislation enacts a call made by Markey and 65 other US legislators in October 2011 for the U.S. Super Committee, to cut $20 billion per annum ($200 billion over 10 years) from the nuclear weapons budget in order to preserve funding for vital programs for social security and the economy (See Freeze the Nukes: Fund the Future).

"Although the SANE Act only asks for half as much to be cut, it goes into detail on which nuclear programs could be cut without impacting on current nuclear policies or doctrines. Even greater cuts could be made if the US negotiates additional nuclear disarmament agreements during this period," says Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of (PNND) is a global network of over 800 parliamentarians from more than 80 countries working to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve nuclear disarmament.

"It's well past time to realign our nation's nuclear arsenal to deal with today's threats," said Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund. "The current Cold War nuclear weapons complex is draining resources and attention from the military programs our nation needs to meet current and future challenges. It is encouraging to see the leadership of so many members of Congress helping to move our nation toward a smarter national security strategy. Congressman Markey and the other co-sponsors of the SANE Act are doing a great service, promoting a much needed debate on how to modernize our nuclear force in a way that both saves money and makes our nation safer."

Ploughshares Fund was founded in 1981 by San Francisco philanthropist, artist and activist Sally Lilienthal (1919-2006). Under Sally’s guidance, Ploughshares Fund made grants whose impact far exceeded their size.

"We are well past the time when the United States needs to stop pouring billions of additional dollars into maintaining the existing nuclear weapons arsenal that is immoral, that the U.S. doesn't need and that is not making our country safer," said David Culp, Legislative Representative, Friends Committee on National Legislation.

"POGO is enthusiastic that so many of our recommendations were included in the bill. We also hope there will be bipartisan support for aspects of the proposal, since the cuts aren't partisan and are a good start to spending smarter and ending the old Cold War strategy," said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight (POGO). "We thank Representative Markey and the other cosponsors for their leadership on this critical issue."

POGO is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government. Founded in 1981, POGO (which was then known as Project on Military Procurement) originally worked to expose outrageously overpriced military spending on items such as a $7,600 coffee maker and a $436 hammer. In 1990, after many successes reforming military spending, including a Pentagon spending freeze at the height of the Cold War, POGO decided to expand its mandate and investigate waste, fraud, and abuse throughout the federal government.

The SANE Act is endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus and: Alliance of Baptists on the Interfaith Committee on Nuclear Disarmament, Church of the Brethren, Citizens for Global Solutions, Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, DC Statehood Green Party, Franciscan Action Network, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Georgia WAND, and Global Green USA (US affiliate of Green Cross International).

Other endorsers are: Global Security Institute and Bipartisan Security Group, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, Los Alamos Study Group, National Council of Churches of Christ, USA, Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ploughshares Fund, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Tri-Valley CAREs, Women's Action for New Directions.