Last week we sent an action alert about funding for new nuclear weapons research. This alert updates advocates and asks for continued advocacy.
The Administration has renewed its request for funding of research on new, earth penetrating nuclear weapons that Congress denied last year. This funding totals $8.5 million for 2006 and even more for 2007. The Department of Energy's budget proposal includes $4 million for research on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) in fiscal year 2006 and projects $14 million for it in 2007. The Department of Defense's budget request includes $4.5 million for the RNEP project in fiscal year 2006 and forecasts spending $3.5 million in 2007.
This funding is currently limited to research, but, it is part of a 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 developing new nuclear weapons, the Administration is also seeking to make it easier to resume nuclear testing.
In The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace (1993), the U.S. Bishops articulate two principles of just war teaching that have profound implications for nuclear weapons:
Noncombatant Immunity: Civilians may not be the object of direct attack, and military personnel must take due care to avoid and minimize indirect harm to civilians.
Proportionality: In the conduct of hostilities, efforts must be made to attain military objectives with no more force than is militarily necessary and to avoid disproportionate collateral damage to civilian life and property.
In light of this teaching the USCCB position is as follows:
- The 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. A recent study on the “Effects of Nuclear Earth Penetrator and Other Weapons” by the National Research Council concluded that “the weapons cannot penetrate to depths required for total containment” and would result in “casualties” that range from “hundreds” to “more than a million” people.
- 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.
Here is where this issue stands in Congress:
- In the House: The House Energy and Water Subcommittee of Appropriations deleted funding for research on the nuclear bunker buster. The House Armed Services Committee transferred $4.0 million for the nuclear bunker buster from the Energy Department to the Air Force to be used for conventional (non-nuclear) earth penetrator weapons studies and left another $4.5 million in the Air Force budget to begin making modifications to the B2 bomber for these weapons.
- In the Senate: The Senate Armed Services Committee provided $4 million in the defense authorization bill to continue study of the nuclear bunker buster, but dropped the $4.5 million for modifications of B2 bomber. Votes by the full House and Senate will follow so the following actions are requested.
- House action: Ask your representative to oppose any amendments to restore funding the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program.
- Senate action: Ask your senators to oppose funding for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program and to support amendments that delete this funding for new nuclear weapons. Senators and Representatives can be reached by dialing the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.