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Nuclear Weapons Lobby Reportedly Spent $2.9 Million To Stave Off Military Cuts

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Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

WASHINGTON -- The nuclear weapons industry is erecting a missile shield of money to prevent federal government spending cuts worth billions of dollars. In the 2012 election cycle, nuclear weapons lobbies have given a total of $2.9 million to key members of Congress and deployed no fewer than 137 revolving-door lobbyists to Capitol Hill, according to a new report that details the lengths to which arms makers will go to protect their turf.

"Bombs Versus Budgets: Inside the Nuclear Weapons Lobby" was released by the arms control advocacy group Center for International Policy. It comes as the White House weighs deep cuts to the nation's nuclear arsenal, even as Republicans in Congress balk at any move to trim defense spending as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal budget.

The stakes for the nuclear industry are high. CIP notes that the Pentagon and the Department of Energy are set to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons projects over the next decade and beyond. Projects include $68 billion for a new generation of nuclear bombers, $347 billion to purchase and operate 12 new ballistic missile submarines, and billions more on new nuclear weapons facilities.

"Any effort to downsize the nation's nuclear force is likely to be met with fierce opposition from the individuals and institutions that benefit from the nuclear status quo, including corporations involved in designing and building nuclear delivery vehicles; companies that operate nuclear warhead-related facilities; and members of Congress with nuclear weapons-related facilities or deployments in their states or districts," the 25-page report said.

According to CIP's research:

  • In the 2012 election cycle alone, the top 14 nuclear weapons contractors funneled $2.9 million to the campaigns of members of Congress who sit on committees with decision-making power over their programs. Lockheed Martin led the pack, donating $535,000 to such lawmakers. Other major players included Honeywell International, with $464,582; Northrop Grumman, $464,000; and Boeing, $336,750.
  • House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) took in $257,750 from the nuclear arms lobby during the 2012 election cycle, more than double his next-nearest competitor, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who received $110,000. In the Senate, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California got the most nuclear-derived money, with $74,500.
  • The major nuclear weapons companies employ 137 lobbyists whose previous jobs were with the government. Most, 96 of them, previously worked for members of Congress or committees that make decisions about nuclear weapons. Another 26 worked for one of the military services, and 24 other revolving-door lobbyists were veterans of the Defense or Energy departments.

The report argues lobbying money is a powerful counter-force to "common sense reductions," such as delaying a next-generation bomber, building fewer ballistic missile submarines or canceling a new plutonium facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico, which the report says could save nearly $50 billion over the next decade.

The report notes Republican legislation that would block implementation of the New START treaty as well as efforts, reported by The Huffington Post, by rural lawmakers to eliminate intercontinental ballistic missiles planted in silos in their states. Another example cited in the report involves 300 lobbyists from the Submarine Industrial Base Council who in March "descended on Capitol Hill to press for $150 million for long lead-time components for a new ballistic missile submarine," funds the industry wants on top of $585 million the Navy has already requested for research and development on the boat.

"Nuclear weapons spending should be determined by what is needed to defend the country, not what is needed to defend the bottom lines of military contractors," said study author William Hartung, who directs CIP's Arms and Security Project. "Instead, the nuclear arms lobby and its allies on Capitol Hill are seeking to block reductions in systems we don't need at prices we can't afford. This unnecessary spending is being pressed by some of the very same members of Congress who have argued that deficit reduction and greater spending discipline should be our top priorities."

Read the full report here.

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