Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) provided a thoughtful analysis of the United States’ overstocked nuclear arsenal in the Washington Post this week, drawing attention to its costs and safety burdens. To convey Sen. Feinstein’s argument succinctly: “The current level of spending on nuclear weapons is unnecessary and unsustainable.”
Among the listed concerns of Sen. Feinstein, the size and cost of the arsenal appear front and center. “We’re holding far more nuclear weapons than are necessary, and the cost is undermining other national security priorities.”, Sen. Feinstein says, citing the rising annual costs of maintaining the nuclear arsenal and the potential for $1 trillion in nuclear weapons spending within the next 30 years. Sen. Feinstein also cites the nuclear hedge, which preserves two reserve warheads for every active duty warhead, as excessive and worthy of reduction.
Also this week, Sen. Feinstein received an award in recognition of her leadership on nuclear security and non-proliferation. This award was presented to her by nine organizations within the arms control community, including the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation’s sister organization: Council for A Livable World.
Angela Canterbury, executive director of the Council and Center, commended the Senator: “Sen. Feinstein has been a tremendous leader, having worked in a bipartisan manner with Senator Lamar Alexander to conduct much-needed oversight of the nuclear weapons complex. No one in Congress knows these issues better, or is doing more to ensure nuclear security and the right-sizing of the role of these weapons in our overall national security strategy.”
Since 2011, Senator Feinstein has served as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee —the committee that oversees federal spending on most of the nuclear weapons complex, which is managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration under the Department of Energy. Next year, when the Republicans become the majority, Feinstein is expected to serve as Ranking Member of that committee while the current Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to become Chairman. Sen. Alexander has a long history of fighting for nuclear security, including being one of 13 republican senators to vote in favor of the New START Treaty. The two have worked closely together on many issues, including issues of nuclear security.
With an unnecessarily ambitious nuclear modernization plan and tough budgetary decisions on the horizon, the U.S. cannot afford to allow inertia to dictate nuclear policy. “It’s time we take a long look at how we can responsibly reduce our stockpile”, says Sen. Feinstein. “We live in 2014, not 1980. The world is a very different place, and we need to plan accordingly.” Indeed.