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Public Statements

The Fiscal Cliff

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, the reality behind the fiscal cliff is that, if we really get down to work, talking with one another, digging into the details, it really is not that hard.

The nuclear arsenal is a prime example and something that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. It is an illustration of why the fiscal sequestration level over the next 10 years for the Department of Defense, which would bring it down to 2007 spending levels, adjusted for inflation, is really not that draconian.

During the Cold War, the United States spent, on average, $35 billion a year on its nuclear weapons complex. Today it spends an estimated $55 billion.

The nuclear weapons budget is spread across the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security. And the government doesn't publicly disclose how much it is, but the last year that the elements were aggregated together, it spent at least $52.4 billion. That's in 2008, according to the Carnegie Endowment for Peace.

That doesn't include classified programs, and it was 5 times the State Department budget, 7 times the EPA, and 14 times what the Department of Energy spent on everything else it does. Indeed, the President agreed to a $200 billion modernization in order to secure the approval of the strategic arms reduction treaty in the Senate.

Well, perhaps it's time for us to take a step back and ask what is actually the purpose. Who is the enemy that this nuclear arsenal is going to deter?

The nuclear arsenal didn't stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. It's not helping us at all with the terrorists who are now the central focus of our security concerns. It doesn't help in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we basically have a stalemate between Russia and China.

Nuclear weapons have not been used since World War II. They likely never will be, so why do we need land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, and submarine launch delivery systems, all three of them?

Do we really need 12 new strategic submarines that will cost almost $5 billion a year, if we're lucky and contain costs?

Who actually is being deterred by this massive spending and buildup?

Exactly what are the circumstances 30 years from now that call for this massive stockpile of weapons and three redundant delivery systems?

You know, recent articles in the Post by Walter Pincus really focused on this. There's Dana Priest's work also in the Post; GAO reports--you don't have to dig very deeply to find out that this is a bloated, flawed program with little technical benefit for us now, a great deal of fiscal pain currently and well into the future.

Twenty-one years ago, President George H.W. Bush unilaterally announced the elimination of thousands of land-based tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and an end to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based Naval aircraft.

Billions had been spent over the years on such weapons, but there was really never any plans for how to use them. Most have been dismantled, and the United States today is no weaker. Most, frankly, have not even noticed.

What could we accomplish over the next 10 years with the same sort of bold thinking on the part of the President, the Pentagon, and Members in Congress?

It's time that we find out.


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