D.C. Runs Amok: PSR Opposes Bipartisan Slide to a New Nuclear Arms Race June 21, 2024

Pranay Vaddi, Senior Director for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation at the National Security Council, addressing the 2024 Arms Control Association Annual Meeting June 7, 2024. Photo credit: Allen Harris / Arms Control Association. Photo used with permission.

Physicians for Social Responsibility, our allied American organizations, a handful of champions in Congress and international advocates such as IPPNW and ICAN are tirelessly advocating for the only healthy approach to nuclear weapons: total elimination of them, globally. But widespread political pressure inside the beltway is pushing hard in the opposite direction — advocating policies that constitute a new nuclear arms race.

The Biden Administration

The Biden Administration’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2025 included a 31% increase for nuclear weapons programs over FY 2024. In an address to the Arms Control Association’s Annual Meeting on June 7, Pranay Vaddi, of Biden’s National Security Council noted that “in the near term, the prospects for strategic arms control are dim.” He went on to say this situation was “forcing the United States and our close allies and partners to prepare for a world where nuclear competition occurs without numerical constraints.”

In the Trump camp

In the June 18 edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, Robert O’Brien, National Security Advisor for former President Trump, advocated that the USA expand production of the new B-21 stealth bomber from 100 units to 256. O’Brien also wrote: “The United States has to maintain technical and numerical superiority to the combined Chinese and Russian nuclear stockpiles. To do so, Washington must test new nuclear weapons for reliability and safety in the real world for the first time since 1992 — not just by using computer models. If China and Russia continue to refuse to engage in good-faith arms control talks, the United States should also resume production of uranium-235 and plutonium-239, the primary fissile isotopes of nuclear weapons.”

Hawks in Congress

Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker, Ranking Member on Senate Armed Services Committee, carried this theme even further to the extreme with a 52 page booklet titled 21st Century Peace Through Strength and an accompanying New York Times op-ed, May 29, titled “America’s Military is Not Prepared for War — or Peace.” ( American taxpayers might well ask, “then where did all my tax money go?” — since the USA has been consistently plowing more taxpayer money into military spending than the next 10 nations combined.)

In his book, Wicker invokes Ronald Reagan’s misguided military buildup of the early 1980’s and calls for

  • increasing the number of new ballistic missile submarines beyond current plans
  • outfitting existing Minuteman land-based missiles with multiple warheads
  • convincing South Korea, Japan and Australia to base U.S. nuclear weapons in their countries
  • restoring nuclear weapons capabilities to B-52 bombers that currently only carry conventional bombs
  • creating a force of fighter planes that can carry air-launched nuclear-armed cruise missiles

Voices of reason on Capitol Hill

Fortunately, there are enlightened elected officials who are pushing back against this apocalyptic paradigm. Representative Jim McGovern’s (D-MA) H.Res.77 supports all five of Back from the Brink’s comprehensive policy prescriptions for preventing nuclear war, and expresses Congressional support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. H.Res. 77 has now garnered 43 House cosponsors, largely through the tireless efforts of Back from the Brink coalition partners including PSR. 

For decades, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced The Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Conversion Act into each session of Congress. This year, her bill is H.R. 2775.

Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) and other elected officials of the Arms Control and Nuclear Weapons Working Group in Congress are questioning the wisdom of one holy grail worshiped by the Pentagon: the Sentinel ICBM currently in research and development. The Working Group is planning a public hearing in July to scrutinize Sentinel program cost overruns and other aspects of the Pentagon’s $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons spending spree.

Take action — Ask your U.S. representative to cosponsor Rep. McGovern’s H.Res.77 

For more information:

Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program Legislative Tracker

Remarks from Pranay Vaddi, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Arms Control,  Disarmament, and Nonproliferation at the National Security Council June 7 at the Arms Control Association “Adapting the U.S. Approach to Arms Control and Nonproliferation to a New Era” (ACA Transcript)

Senator Roger Wicker “Peace Through Strength” report, 52 pages

Wicker in NYT — America’s Military is Not Prepared for War–or Peace

Bill Hartung response to Wicker in NYT

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