SANE Act Calls for Cuts to Nuclear Budget

After months of work on the campaign to slash the nuclear weapons budget, the concept is firmly taking hold in Congress.

Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), along with 34 other members of the House of Representatives, introduced a bill that would save an estimated $100 billion by cutting outdated nuclear expenses from the budget. The legislation, called the SANE (Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures Act of 2012) Act, proposes substantive cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, including submarines, missiles, aircrafts, and weapons laboratories.

According to a press release from Rep. Markey’s office, the specific cuts included in the bill would:

  • Cut the current fleet of nuclear submarines from 12 operational at sea to eight operational at sea ($3 billion savings)
  • Delay the purchase of new nuclear submarines ($17 billion savings)
  • Reduce the number of ICBMs ($6 billion savings)
  • End the nuclear missions of air bombers (up to $17 billion savings)
  • Delay new bomber program ($18 billion savings)
  • Cancel new, wasteful nuclear weapons facilities ($15 billion savings)

Many of these ideas were recommended in a study by two of Washington’s most reputable budget watchdogs (both Ploughshares Fund grantees), the Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“POGO is enthusiastic that so many of our recommendations were included in the bill. We also hope there will be bipartisan support for aspects of the proposal, since the cuts aren't partisan and are a good start to spending smarter and ending the old Cold War strategy,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

Markey’s effort comes at a crucial time for the nuclear budget issue in Congress. As the government struggles to balance the national budget, the necessity of Cold War-era nuclear programs has come into question. And, during a time of stark division in our government, the push to cut nuclear spending is one of the few issues gaining bi-partisan support. Last year, Tom Colburn (R-OK) outlined a plan that would cut $80 billion from different areas of the nuclear arsenal.

Many of these projects, such as the construction of the CMRR, a multi-billion dollar weapons complex at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have been found to be incredibly costly with no clear mission or purpose to justify their expense. This project, which was estimated to cost $375 million upon its approval in 2001, is now projected to cost between $3.6 and $4.9 billion – for half of the facility alone. With a national debt of $14 trillion, the U.S. cannot afford to invest in archaic defense systems.

The SANE act is the first legislation to appear before Congress to move these cuts from the drawing board into reality. Coming just before the release of the Presidential budget next week that many hope will contain ideas for similar cuts, the SANE act is another sign that nuclear sanity might be on the way.

Photo by rpongsaj on Flickr