March 26, 2015
We are pleased that the United States Senate is considering a budget resolution for fiscal year 2016 and providing an opportunity for Senators to offer amendments on a wide variety of budget and policy issues. It is a clear indication that the Senate is interested in a robust budget debate. We write to make recommendations on the following national security-related amendments:
1. Oppose the Fischer-Blunt amendment #404 endorsing “modernizing the triad of strategic nuclear delivery systems, the nuclear command and control system, and the nuclear weapons stockpile, and supporting related infrastructure.”
While it is clear that portions of the nuclear weapons stockpile and the nuclear launchers are in need of modernization, the Pentagon is presently embarking on an unaffordable program that could cost $1 trillion over the next three decades. As Dept. of Defense Under Secretary for Acquisitions, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall stated recently regarding the triad of bombers, submarines, and land-based missiles, “we’re gonna start to have a problem finding ways to afford these systems.”
2. Oppose the Sullivan amendment #505 endorsing spending on “ground-based midcourse defense and the long-range discrimination radar programs.”
Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act took the position to “fix what we’ve got” in terms of missile defense. In addition, the bill required the Missile Defense Agency to complete a variety of actions and studies, especially calling to fix an antiquated, broken architecture and to deploy the as-yet-not-designed Long-Range Discriminating Radar. Thus the Pentagon should move slowly before expanding the ground-based midcourse defense until the studies are completed and the new radar is ready.
3. Oppose the Hoeven amendment #647 advocating the development of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile.
As long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. needs to maintain an effective deterrent. But this very expensive weapon is an unnecessary part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent forces when we have huge numbers of land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles and long-range bombers with nuclear bombs, and all three legs are being modernized. This new weapon has an estimated budget of $15-19 billion at a time the U.S. may be planning to spend $1 trillion on updating our nuclear weapons force. An alternative is to return to last year’s acquisition schedule which delayed the missile and warhead by three years and would save a significant amount of money.
4. Oppose the Kirk amendment #545 advocating for the U.S. to “immediately reimpose waived sanctions and impose new sanctions against the Government of Iran for violations of the Joint Plan of Action or a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.”
The negotiations of six countries and Iran are in the end stages, and adoption of this amendment could hinder successful completion of the negotiations – which may be the intent of Senator Kirk. There will be ample time for the United States Congress to consider permanently waiving or expanding sanctions if Iran violates a final deal.
5. Oppose the Rubio amendment #423 to increase spending on national defense for 2016 by $76.5 billion in new budget authority and outlays by $52.8 billion. He also proposes increasing military spending in Fiscal Year 2017.
The Rubio amendment would violate the Budget Control Act if the amendment became law. It asks that only a select segment of the discretionary budget follow discipline, while well over 50% of the discretionary budget would be spending with very little constraint.
6. Oppose the McCain amendment #546 to permit the Overseas Contingency Operations Budget by $38 billion while avoiding a point of order requiring 60 votes to approve this larger sum during the defense appropriations process.
Senator McCain is proposing a massive budget gimmick that he had previously opposed to increase Pentagon spending while evading the budget caps. Thus the balance between Pentagon spending and domestic spending enshrined in the budget caps is being severely eroded by this amendment. The request presented by the President’s budget reflected the request the Pentagon made to continue overseas operations. Further funding will clearly not be used as intended, but rather to shore up base budgeting that the Pentagon complains is not being met by living within the constraints of the BCA. As the New York Times editorial board wrote today, these maneuvers “represent a further corruption of an account created to underwrite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but has since been used for purposes unrelated to these conflicts.”
7. Support the Markey-Merkley Amendment #706 on “achieving savings in the nuclear security enterprise.”
Plans to modernize the nuclear triad of land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear bombs are unaffordable, unnecessary, and unrealistic. It is important to start preparing now for a modernized but affordable nuclear arsenal rather than one that breaks the bank without making the United States more secure. Congress can save money without jeopardizing national security in the short term by reducing the number planned replacement nuclear-armed submarines (SSBN(x)); delaying the purchase of a long range bomber; and refurbishing rather than replacing the ICBM force.
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Council for a Livable World
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Board of Church and Society United Methodist Church
Women’s Action for New Directions