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Garamendi Warns of New Nuclear Arms Race during Defense Authorization Amendments Hearing

April 30, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday evening, during the House Armed Services Committee’s consideration of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 1735, Committee Member Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) introduced and spoke in favor of a series of amendments that seek to better inform Congress about the costs and risks of America’s participation in a new nuclear arms race.

The Republican majority on the Committee rejected every amendment introduced, even amendments that simply asked for reports from the Department of Defense (DOD) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to better understand the total lifecycle costs of nuclear weapons programs. It is estimated that America’s nuclear weapons posture, as currently envisioned, will cost the nation more than a trillion dollars over 30 years, but the federal government does not currently consider the costs of these programs beyond ten years.

“I think it's about time to pause for a moment and consider what this all means. We really are well into the first quarter of a new nuclear arms race,” Garamendi said during the Armed Services Committee hearing. “You will come to realize that over the next 20 to 25 years, we'll be spending well over a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons systems. While we're doing it, so are Russia and China. It's an arms race, much like we saw in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And this one is particularly troublesome, because the weapons are far more sophisticated, the bombs are far more precise, and the delivery systems are too. Just think about the implications.”

Garamendi continues to pursue amendments to take America a step back from the nuclear arms race on the House floor during today’s debate on floor amendments to the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill, H.R. 2028.

NDAA Amendments

Triad v. Dyad v. Monad Report

Video of the Congressman’s remarks on this amendment.

This Garamendi amendment would have directed the DOD to provide a briefing on the options and analysis informed by the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review on retaining a nuclear triad versus moving to a nuclear dyad or monad. The nuclear triad consists of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Garamendi wants more information on why this posture is necessary.

“This is simply a request for the Department to deliver to us the information that we will need to make some strategic decisions about these issues. That’s it. If we want to be ignorant then turn this down,” Garamendi said before the Committee rejected the amendment.

Plutonium Pits Report

Video of the Congressman’s remarks on this amendment.

Another Garamendi amendment requires the Administrator for the NNSA to submit a report on the rationale and cost of expanding our plutonium pit production capacity from the current 5-10 pits per year to as much as 50-80 a year. Plutonium pits are the core component of most modern nuclear weapons, and it’s unclear to the Congressman why this program needs to be expanded, especially when we already have an unused stockpile of more than 10,000 plutonium pits.

“The NNSA wants to expand the ability to make new nuclear plutonium pits to the tune of 50 to 80 a year. The current production is about 5 to 10 a year and yet there is no explanation of why we need to go to 50 to 80,” Garamendi said. “Why we want to go out and build this extremely expensive facility – it’ll be at least 1.4 billion dollars – is beyond me. We’ve never been given the information on why this in necessary, either in classified hearings or in public hearings.”

Nuclear Life Extension Program Report

Video of the Congressman’s remarks on this amendment.

This amendment requires the DOD, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the Nuclear Weapons Council, and NNSA to submit a report on all current and planned nuclear life extension, modernization, development, and procurement programs, with special attention to the costs of such programs beyond ten years. Given geopolitical considerations and the growing costs of nuclear waste cleanup, Garamendi thinks we need to more carefully consider the wisdom of preserving and expanding our nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear Cleanup Prioritization

Video of the Congressman’s remarks on this amendment.

The final Garamendi amendment would shift $125 million dedicated to the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility in Savannah River, South Carolina toward various nuclear cleanup projects around the country. Garamendi and many experts think the technology employed at the MOX facility is not living up to its promise, and the money dedicated to MOX is better redirected to other more efficient nuclear waste reduction efforts. When the MOX program was originally authorized, it was expected to cost $1.6 billion. The United States has already spent $4.4 billion dollars on the program and the latest estimated total lifecycle cost has now ballooned to at least $47 billion..

Other Amendments

During the hearing, Garamendi also spoke up in favor of amendments authored by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA). One Sanchez amendment sought a report on the status of our nuclear partnership with NATO allies, with a particular emphasis on ways to reduce the burden on U.S. taxpayers while protecting current operational capabilities. Another Sanchez amendment sought to redirect $237.7 million from various NNSA weapons activities toward critical infrastructure upgrades on military bases. The Larsen amendment sought an estimate on the costs of America’s nuclear weapons pursuits over the next 25 years.

"We are the ones that must make a decision about spending a trillion dollars on nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon delivery systems over the next 25 years,” Garamendi told the Committee during consideration of Rep. Larsen’s amendment. “We need to know. This is our work. So why would we deny ourselves the basic information that we must have as we enter into the second, third, and fourth quarter of a trillion dollar nuclear enterprise that we're going to rebuild. Do we want to be ignorant? I hope not. Do we want to have the very best knowledge going forward? I would hope so. And make a decision based upon that information.”

After reflecting on yesterday’s hearing, Garamendi added, “I’m disappointed the Majority on the Armed Services Committee turned down this opportunity to learn more about our new nuclear arms race. During these times of fiscal belt tightening we need to invest in a smart national defense. I will continue to ask the tough questions, even if that means ruffling a few feathers back in Washington, D.C."