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Investing in Cures Before Missiles

Legislation introduced to stop the further development of the GBSD intercontinental ballistic missile and directing savings towards development of a universal coronavirus vaccine

On March 26, 2021, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) introduced the Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICBM) Act.

The legislation was welcomed by many key people and organizations in the nuclear policy community, including Ploughshares Fund. The legislation would stop the further development of the Pentagon’s new $93-96 billion ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and direct those savings towards development of a universal coronavirus vaccine and towards the battle against other types of biothreats.

Stopping funding on the proposed new missile is a priority for Ploughshares Fund. These missiles make accidental war more likely and present an opportunity for significant nuclear arms reductions. Their phased elimination would increase the safety and security of the United States and the world.

The missiles, known the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) are projected to cost $264- billion over their lifespan. Canceling the new ICBM would increase security by reducing the risk of accidental nuclear war. Financially, this legislation would mandate that the savings are spent on one of the nation’s top  security needs, stopping the current pandemic and future pandemics.

“It is time to put masks and vaccines before new nuclear missiles,” said Tom Collina, Policy Director, Ploughshares Fund. “We shouldn’t spend our limited resources on nuclear weapons that we don’t need and that make us less safe. Instead we must redirect tax dollars to helping families and fighting the pandemic. I congratulate Sen. Markey and Rep. Khanna for their crucial work.”

More expert opinion from the some of the brightest people with the best ideas in the nuclear policy community:

“Whatever you think ails this nation, a new generation of nuclear missiles is not the answer,” said Bill Perry, former Secretary of Defense. “The good news is that the country can save money and become more secure at the same time. Congress can and should redirect this nuclear funding to address more pressing needs like the pandemic. Thank you Sen. Markey and Rep. Khanna for your leadership on this issue.”

“When more Americans have died from the coronavirus than in combat in World War II, it is time for the United States to rethink its national security priorities,” said Former Congressman John Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World. “No American will be safer from the real threats they face today by rushing another costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons system into production, when those same tax dollars might save lives if put toward more pressing issues of national health, infrastructure and economic relief. Instead of building more weapons to fight a Cold War strategy, let’s invest in meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. We thank Senator Markey and Representative Khanna for their consistent leadership on this issue.”

“Not only does the United States not need ICBMs to keep us protected, their current ‘prompt launch’ posture makes nuclear war more likely due to the risk of mistaken or accidental launch,” said Stephen Young, Acting Co-Director, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists. “In that light, the United States should not spend $264 billion to build and deploy hundreds of land-based missiles, but devote those resources to higher priorities like ending the pandemic, addressing the climate crisis, and building racial equity. This bill begins that vital process.”

"ICBMs are the least valuable and least stabilizing leg of the US nuclear triad,” said Kingston Reif, Director of Disarmament and Threat Reduction, Arms Control Association. “Spending approximately $100 billion to buy a new ICBM system and billions more on an upgraded ICBM warhead is unnecessary and would divert funds from higher priority national security needs, including pandemic defense and response. There are cheaper options to maintain a credible ICBM force than moving full steam ahead with the GBSD and W87-1 programs and pursuing them would be inconsistent with the Biden administration's desire to seek further negotiated arms control arrangements with Russia. We applaud Senator Markey and Rep. Khanna for their vital leadership on this issue.”

"Physicians for Social Responsibility welcomes this sensible legislation from Senator Markey and Representative Khanna,” said Jeff Carter, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It is clear that pandemic preparedness and public health infrastructure are much better investments than new nuclear weapons we don't need and that don't make us safe.”

“American voters want vaccines instead of unneeded nuclear missiles that can end humanity,” said Paul Kawika Martin, the Senior Director for Policy and Political Affairs with Peace Action. “Once again, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Ro Khanna lead the way with pragmatic legislation that will fund pandemic solutions over nuclear silos that cost as much as two Departments of State. With the Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons now in force, the US should move towards eliminating these horrific weapons.”

“The United States is at a crossroads with a new president and a new congress,” said Erica Fein, Advocacy Director, Win Without War. “We must ask ourselves if we want to keep investing in the failed status quo violence-first mentality or in things that actually keep people safe. A new land-based nuclear weapon to the tune of $264 billion is everything that is wrong with the status quo. I applaud Sen. Markey and Rep. Khanna for sponsoring the ICBM Act, a bill that will help the US respond to the true drivers of insecurity and reimagine federal budget priorities.”

“The United States nuclear arsenal far exceeds any plausible mission requirements put forth by the Pentagon,” Jessica Sleight, Program Director, Global Zero. “Even in the best of times, $264 billion for new nuclear missiles is money we can’t spare for weapons we don’t need. In the middle of a devastating pandemic, it’s irresponsible. Senator Markey and Representative Khanna understand taxpayer dollars should fund programs that address real threats to Americans, like the pandemic, instead of wasteful nuclear missile programs.”

“ICBMs are dangerous, unnecessary, and enormously expensive,” said William D. Hartung Director, Arms and Security Program Center for International Policy. “There is no strategic need to build a new one – and certainly not at a staggering lifetime cost of $264 billion. At a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from a pandemic whose effects could have been dramatically reduced by adequate investments in public health and medical research, this bill sets the right priorities by shifting funds towards addressing the most urgent threats we face, rather than squandering them on a system that puts us all at risk by making an accidental nuclear war more likely. Sen. Markey and Rep. Khanna are to be commended for introducing this timely and urgently needed legislation.”

Learn more about this legislation from the press release, the source of these quotations, and in The Guardian.

Invest in Cures Before Missiles. Stop the #NewArmsRace.

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Photo: Vaccine. Flickr / bcgovphotos (cc)