The Bush administrations request for the FY05 Defense Authorization includes $27.6 M for research on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) and $9 M for the Advanced Concepts Initiative on new nuclear weapons. The RNEP would be a modified version of existing warheads that would be used to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets. The Advanced Concepts Initiative seeks to reinvigorate programs for possible development of new, lower yield nuclear-warheads. Congress paved the way for these two programs last year when it repealed the decade-long ban on research on new, smaller nuclear weapons (the ban on development of new weapons was retained).
While this funding is currently limited to research, it is part of a larger nuclear strategy that envisions the use of nuclear weapons against chemical and biological weapons or to destroy deeply buried bunkers. In order to prepare for the development of new nuclear weapons, the Administration is also seeking to make it easier to resume nuclear testing.
- These new weapons would erode the fragile barrier against nuclear use because they are part of a strategy that contemplates first use of nuclear weapons and their use against non-nuclear threats. Smaller, more "usable" nuclear weapons would not be discriminate or proportionate in any meaningful sense.
- The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a serious problem; research on new, more usable nuclear weapons will only undermine the credibility of U.S. efforts to address it. Mutual restraint, international cooperation, and leadership by example are called for, not the proliferation of our own weapons of mass destruction.
- The United States retains a nuclear arsenal that far exceeds anything necessary to deter existing or foreseeable nuclear threats. The moral task today is to proceed with deeper cuts and ultimately to ban nuclear weapons entirely, not to begin research on new ones.
- Funding for research on new nuclear weapons and efforts to make it easier to rapidly resume nuclear testing would move the United States further from the urgent task of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban, an essential step in stopping nuclear proliferation and moving toward progressive nuclear disarmament. See letter of Bishop John Ricard at www.usccb.org/sdwp
Contact your Member of Congress and urge them to oppose funding in the Defense Authorization bill for research on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and the Advanced Concepts Initiative on new nuclear weapons.
Focus especially on the following Senators: Smith (R-OR), Collins (R-ME), Snowe (R-ME), Specter (R-PA),Bennett (R-UT), Nelson (D-FLA), Bayh (D-IN), Lugar (R-IN), Nelson (D-NE), Hagel (R-NE), Murkowski (R-AL), Stevens (R-AL)
Further Information: Gerard Powers 202-541-3160 (b); 202-541-3339 (f); firstname.lastname@example.org