Nuclear weapons can be eliminated: Chapter 8, Part 2

Chapter 8: Now in the United States
Part 2: First Budget

by Yumi Kanazaki, Staff Writer

Budget request inconsistent with a nuclear-free world

In the United States, the fiscal year begins in October. The appropriations process for FY2010 (October 2009 to September 2010), the first fiscal year for the Obama administration, will not be finalized by the end of the year, as in years past. However, in some areas the outline of the funding has already been determined. For the Department of Energy, the budget is roughly $6.4 billion, while the amount stands at about $500 billion for the Pentagon, excluding the budget for the ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The amount of the budget request for FY2010 is approximately the same as that of the budget request under the Bush administration but the breakdown of the request is clearly different," said Travis Sharp, communications director and military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation located near Capitol Hill in Washington.

Expenditure for developing the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) the Bush administration had strongly demanded was omitted. In addition, expenditure for Missile Defense (MD) has also been cut. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has requested an increase in the amount for international monitoring paid to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Some budget requests, though, are inconsistent with the nuclear-free world Mr. Obama is advocating to the international community. "This is due to the strong demands from lawmakers with military bases in their districts," explained Mr. Sharp, citing plans to upgrade the Ohio class submarines.

The Ohio class submarines are strategic missile submarines designed to carry nuclear weapons. These submarines will start being retired in 2027. The administration requested $387.5 million to design the next generation of submarines and Congress agreed to the full amount.

Congress, however, has expressed opposition to the president's idea of dropping or delaying the plan to replace the B-52, the strategic bomber built in the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, the proposal upset some members of Congress who inserted language into the Senate's version of the FY2010 Defense Authorization Bill, which specifies the budget and expenditure of the Pentagon: "It is the policy of the United States to support a development program for the next generation bomber aircraft technologies."

At The Capitol Hill Club adjacent to Capitol Hill, a breakfast meeting was held under the auspices of the National Defense University and an organization of military industries. While members of Congress were eating omelets and bread, Lt. Gen. Klotz, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, which has been newly established in Louisiana, touched upon Mr. Obama's speech in Prague. "In his speech, President Obama made this point perfectly clear: 'Make no mistake,' he said, 'as long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.' And this is the fundamental mission of Air Force Global Strike Command."

Commander Klotz also put forward the importance of including an allocation for the bombers in the budget, adding, "The nuclear-capable bombers of the Air Force, the B-2 and B-52, are both vital because of their great versatility and flexibility and, in my view, are absolutely essential to strategic nuclear deterrence."

The process of compiling the budget is strongly affected by political dynamics. However, Hans Kristensen, of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, holds a different view. "This doesn't mean, for its long-term policy, that the Obama administration has given up its intention to drastically reduce the nation's nuclear-carrying systems, such as submarines."

(Originally published on October 15, 2009)

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