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Cut the Nuclear Pork from the Stimulus Bill

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Some Senators have stealthily stuffed $1 billion for nuclear weapons into the recovery bill. The only thing this will stimulate is an arms race. It must go.

The Senate bill now contains language authorizing $1 billion "for weapons activities" at the sprawling nuclear weapons complex of laboratories and factories run by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), including new construction, new projects and new computers. The House bill does not contain this funding, for good reason.

Military spending is notoriously poor at stimulating the economy. Studies show that investing in mass transit, education or state and local government projects generate far more economic activity than money spent on weapons. There are, in addition, three other major problems with using this emergency legislation for non-urgent and unnecessary nuclear weapons purposes.

First, this is a stealth increase in the nuclear weapons budget. The government currently spends at least $52 billion each year on nuclear weapons and related programs, according to a new study by the Carnegie Endowment. This is an unconscionable amount in any year, but particularly outrageous during this profound economic crisis. Of this amount, the NNSA got $9.3 billion last year. The Senate would give the agency a $1 billion bonus--free money above and beyond its normal budget. It is an 11 percent increase for weapons programs at a time when hospitals, schools and state governments are forced to slash their budgets and lay off workers.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability provides a complete NNSA budget breakdown on their website. They are mounting a public campaign against this give-away.

Second, this weapons increase comes without any presidential plan for the size, composition, or mission for the 5,200 nuclear weapons currently in our stockpile. We have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world--or any nation therein--many times over. But the Bush Administration planned to expand nuclear weapon production, plans that could cost $200 billion over the next two decades, according to Bill Hartung at the New America Foundation. Giving a nuclear bonus to the weapons complex now is an attempt to force start this expansion, box in President Obama, and create facts on the ground that he will find more difficult to reverse.

Finally, this is a nuclear earmark manipulated in Senate backrooms. There is not a record of who put these funds into the bill, nor any justification for why this amount and why now. The culprit, however, is suspected to be a senator who has no intention of voting for the bill. This is not transparency; this is hypocrisy. No member of Congress should be allowed to vigorously oppose the recovery bill with one hand and stuff nuclear pork into it with the other.