September 15, 2003
I write to urge you to oppose funding in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill (S. 1424) for research on the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator and other advanced nuclear weapons.
A minimal nuclear deterrent may be morally justified only to deter the use of nuclear weapons. We oppose this funding because it would reinforce policies and practices that envision a much wider role for nuclear weapons, including their first use and their use against non-nuclear threats. These weapons would unnecessarily blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons and would erode the fragile barrier against their use. Moreover, we remain unconvinced that the more usable nuclear weapons envisioned would be discriminate or proportionate in any meaningful sense.
Our nation and other nuclear powers have new opportunities to reduce and ultimately end their reliance on nuclear weapons. Even after the Moscow Treaty is fully implemented, the United States would have 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.
The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a serious problem, but research on new, more usable nuclear weapons will only undermine the credibility of U.S. efforts to address it effectively. Mutual restraint, international cooperation, and leadership by example are called for, not the proliferation of our own weapons of mass destruction.
Finally, funding for research on new nuclear weapons and provisions that would enable more rapid resumption of 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.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, S.J.
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, International Policy Committee