by Erica Fein, WAND Nuclear Weapons Policy Officer
The President’s budget release is a perfect time to think about our national priorities over the coming years: Do we want to invest in programs to keep America vibrant, well-educated, and healthy, or do we want a hollowed-out America where spending on expensive and unworkable weapons systems take precedent?
Nuclear weapons, increasingly less useful for 21st century defense, should be one of the places where we are re-prioritizing. Yet, the President’s budget increased spending on nuclear weapons by seven percent, to $8.31 billion. It appears the increase is almost fully offset by a decrease in funding for nonproliferation programs – the programs that prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands.
B61 A Prime Example of Misplaced Priorities
Much of this increase is for the unnecessarily complex upgrade to the B61, a Cold War-era nuclear bomb. While most experts agree that some sort of life extension to this weapon is needed as long as it is part of the nuclear stockpile, leaders in the U.S. Congress are not convinced of the Administration’s plans. As Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that makes funding decisions on nuclear weapons, has stated, “A more narrow scope of work [on the B61] would safely extend its life while meeting military requirements.”