Senators to Trump Administration: Reject Calls for New Nuclear Weapons

Senators also want rising costs of modernization effort addressed in next Nuclear Posture Review

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined with 13 of their colleagues today to urge the Trump administration to reject calls for new nuclear weapons and to reevaluate the affordability of the current nuclear modernizations effort in the next Nuclear Posture Review.

“Many of us oppose the development of new nuclear weapons and believe that the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal is to deter a nuclear attack,” the senators wrote. “In light of the CBO report, it is now also clear that developing new nuclear weapons is unaffordable, and would force tradeoffs between needed investments in our conventional capabilities.”

The full text of the letter follows:

November 30, 2017

The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
U.S. Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC

The Honorable James M. Mattis
U.S. Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC

The Honorable Rick Perry
U.S. Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC

Dear Secretaries Tillerson, Mattis and Perry:

As you finalize the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), we strongly urge you to consider the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) recent analysis of the increasing cost of the existing nuclear modernization plan. In light of the CBO’s findings, we urge you to incorporate the CBO’s analysis into the NPR process so that the review’s recommendations are affordable, strictly necessary to maintain deterrence, and do not force the nation to choose between an increasingly costly nuclear modernization program and maintaining conventional superiority.

The CBO makes clear that the administration’s current nuclear modernization plan is unaffordable and will reduce our ability to make necessary investments in our conventional capabilities. The CBO reported that the administration’s plan will cost up to $1.7 trillion, with inflation, over the next 30 years, with an annual cost of approximately $50 billion in the 2030s. The agency noted that these costs would “directly compete for funding with other defense priorities,” principally planned investments in our conventional systems, at a time when defense spending is likely to be constrained by long-term fiscal pressures.

The CBO also detailed options to significantly alter the existing modernization plan while still meeting our deterrence requirements. Specifically, the CBO outlined nine options that would either cancel or delay specific nuclear weapons systems, or reduce the number of deployed warheads in line with the Defense Department’s 2013 Nuclear Employment Strategy. The CBO also considered the possibility of forgoing modernization of select triad components without risking a failure of deterrence. Clearly the existing modernization plan is not sacrosanct.

Many of us oppose the development of new nuclear weapons and believe that the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal is to deter a nuclear attack. In light of the CBO report, it is now also clear that developing new nuclear weapons is unaffordable, and would force tradeoffs between needed investments in our conventional capabilities. We urge you to reject calls to develop new low-yield weapons or to increase nuclear delivery systems beyond those already planned, which are simply divorced from budgetary realities.

Many of us have opposed certain aspects of the nuclear modernization plan as unnecessary and destabilizing. The CBO’s report makes clear, at a minimum, that the existing plan is unaffordable and needs revision. We strongly urge you to incorporate the CBO’s findings into the review process so that the NPR can offer a realistic path to maintaining deterrence.

Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Edward J. Markey
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Tammy Baldwin
United States Senator

Chris Van Hollen
United States Senator

Al Franken
United States Senator

Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator

Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Patty Murray
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Brian Schatz
United States Senator

Kamala D. Harris
United States Senator

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