ACT TO STOP THE BOMB PLANT
The budget battle is going to heat up as soon as Congress comes back to Washington, DC. Politicians are making a lot of noise about fiscal responsibility, though it’s not clear how many of them really mean it. The good news is: it’s a perfect time for cutting irrational programs, like nuclear weapons “modernization.”
No one in Congress has put funding for new bomb plants on the chopping block—but that’s where we come in.
Next year’s budget (FY2012)
On February 14, the Administration released its FY2012 budget request, resulting in a flurry of news stories about what’s in and what’s out. Obama promised to freeze spending on everything but defense.
The Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration piece of the Obama budget has an increase of half a billion dollars for more bombs, including a 30% increase in funding for the new bomb plant (the Uranium Processing Facility) in Oak Ridge and an even bigger increase for the CMRR-NF (plutonium bomb plant) at Los Alamos. This funding request is part of Obama’s deal with Republicans to “modernize” the US weapons complex and stockpile in exchange for START votes.
Obama’s budget was the start of a conversation that will play out over the next several months as Congress does its horse trading—another opportunity for us.
In public, at least, people are looking to cut money from the budget. Funding for new bomb plants that expand US capacity for nuclear weapons is a potential savings spot. But we have the make the case.
It won’t be made by our arms control friends in DC, most of whom signed off or stood silent while Obama made the $85-billion-for-modernization START deal.
It won’t be made by defense contractors for obvious reasons, they and their highly paid lobbyists maintain a laser focus on plundering the national treasury for profit.
It won’t be made by politicians without a lot of pressure. Either they are in line for some of the pork, or they are worried about being labeled soft on defense in their next campaign.
It won’t be made by the “liberal” Obama Administration—they may be willing to look the other way on the Nonproliferation Treaty promise to disarm, but they are keeping their word on this one (even though John Kyl, leader of the other side, did NOT vote to ratify START even after he got the money). The Obama Administration is likely looking for what it can bargain away to get votes for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The case will only be made by us—the people—the ones who have no stake in this except safety and security and the future for our children and grandchildren. In other words, the public interest.
There is no reason to believe the US government is susceptible to people power in the Tahir Square kind of way. But we can have an impact if we organize, demonstrate a high level of commitment, and persist. Because like the demonstrators in Egypt, we happen to be right.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
You can write to Congress—House members, especially—articulating the case for cutting funding for “modernization,” and it’s a simple case:
The US has 5,900 warheads; we’ve agreed to reduce the stockpile to 1,550. Our current stockpile is reliable; much of it has just been through “life extension.” And the work that needs to be done to keep the stockpile safe and secure as we move to a world free of nuclear weapons can be done in existing facilities. If there are problems, they can be addressed at a fraction of the cost (the existing Oak Ridge facilities are being modernized now for less than one tenth the cost of the new UPF). Just as importantly, new bomb plants are provocative–they undermine US arguments against a nuclear Iran and are used to justify a new global arms race as Russia moves to “modernize,” and Pakistan increases its stockpile.
That’s the case in a nutshell.
You can make it by writing to your elected officials. You can make it by writing a letter to the editor. Have a letter-writing party with five or six friends and send them in one after another. Mention your elected officials so their staff will clip the letter. It helps them know their constituents care, and it helps to shape the national debate.
Write Representative Hal Rogers—he’s the point man in the House effort to find $100 million in cuts. They say they are open to all ideas.
TIME FOR OUR PERFECT STORM
When should we make our push? What do we need to get us to commit to a serious effort to stop the bomb plants?
The case against new bomb plants and the case for fiscal responsibility has never been clearer. And the need to put the brakes on has never been more crucial. In other words, it’s time for our perfect storm.
If we don’t stop funding now, it will only get harder, maybe impossible. Until now, the funding has been for planning and design—relatively small change, but building an investment that is harder and harder to give up. Now the money is moving toward site preparation and construction, and once that starts…well, NOW is when we have to make the move.
If you know three other people who might write letters, make the phone calls.
If you connect with people on Facebook or Twitter, start writing on walls and tweeting.
If all you can do is write a letter yourself, or call a Congressional office, do it NOW!
If you think you could do more if you had a speaker come to your community, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org or 865 776 5050.