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Arms Control Association Applauds Lawmakers' Move to Cut Funding for Costly and Counterproductive Nuclear Weapons Projects
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For Immediate Release: November 22, 2004

Press Contact: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.): The decision by congressional appropriators to delete funding for research on new types of nuclear weapons "is an important rejection of the administration's costly and counterproductive drive to invent new nuclear arms for new missions," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA). ACA is a non-partisan research and advocacy organization that has been in the forefront of a three-year campaign opposing the projects.

Kimball stated, "The congressional budget cuts send a strong signal to the White House that Republicans and Democrats will resist efforts to create new and 'more usable' nuclear weapons or resume nuclear testing." He added, "It is clear many believe such efforts make it harder to convince other states to exercise nuclear restraint."

On Nov. 20, House and Senate appropriation committees approved an omnibus spending package for various government agencies for fiscal year 2005, including the Energy Department, which is responsible for nuclear weapons-related programs. The Bush administration had requested $9 million to investigate advanced new nuclear weapon concepts, such as low-yield warheads and $27 million to continue research on modifying two existing high-yield warheads to destroy targets buried deep underground. The bomb used to destroy Hiroshima registered around 13 kilotons. Low-yield warheads are those defined as being less than five kilotons, while the proposed "bunker busters" could be ten times as powerful as the weapon used against Hiroshima.

Led by Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), House appropriators had zeroed out funding for these controversial nuclear weapons programs earlier this year, while the Senate side under the direction of Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) had fully supported them. Proposed amendments in both the Senate and the House on related bills to bar the use of funds for the nuclear weapons projects fell short of approval this summer. However, Hobson and Senate Democrats, led by Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), prevailed in an unusual post-election negotiation on the spending bill.

The Bush administration told a skeptical Congress that it has no plans to develop, test, or produce new or modified nuclear weapons and only wants to conduct "research." Noting that the Energy Department outlined a $484.7 million five-year funding profile for nuclear earth penetrator research and development, Hobson's committee said in June that it "remains unconvinced by the Department's superficial assurances that the [earth penetrator] activity is only a study and that advanced concepts is only a skills exercise for weapons designers."

Rather than pursue its "obsession with launching a new round of nuclear weapons development," Hobson urged the Energy Department "to focus wholly on its primary mission of maintaining the safety, security, and viability of the existing stockpile."

"Congressman Hobson has shown enormous courage to break ranks with the White House and apply common sense on its excessive and extreme nuclear proposals," said Kimball.

"The defeat of the new nuclear weapons programs represents the hard work and commitment of numerous other congressional leaders and thousands of concerned citizens around the country," noted Kimball.

"Yet, our campaign is by no means over," Kimball cautioned. He added, "The Bush administration should carefully consider whether it will try to revive its controversial nuclear weapons research programs in its fiscal year 2006 budget request. Doing so will only ignite further opposition in Congress and complicate efforts to build support for strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the pivotal May 2005 Review Conference."

"Instead, Congress and the administration should engage in a serious reevaluation of the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. defense and security posture. When and if they do, they should realize that nuclear weapons, so long as they exist, are only useful in deterring nuclear attack by another nation and not for battlefield use," said Kimball.

Congress also decided to reduce the administration's request for $30 million toward construction of a new facility for building the explosive cores or plutonium pits of U.S. nuclear weapons. The proposed Modern Pit Facility could churn out up to 450 pits a year, cost up to $4 billion to build, and $300 million annually to operate. According to independent analysts, the proposal greatly exceeds realistic requirements for maintaining a shrinking U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Congress appropriated only $7 million for the project and said none of the funding could be used to select a location for the facility in fiscal year 2005, which ends Sept. 30, 2005.


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Posted: November 22, 2004