President Obama campaigned on an anti-war platform and has talked convincingly about moving gradually towards a world that is free of nuclear weapons, yet a new report shows that nearly half (45 percent) of the 16,300 nuclear weapons on earth belong to the United States. That includes a stockpile of nearly 4,800 right in our own backyards, in the United States itself.
In addition to the security threats posed by nuclear proliferation, all these weapons come at a real cost. The U.S. is currently set to ramp up spending on its nuclear arsenal in order to operate, sustain and modernize the “nuclear triad” of ballistic submarines, land-based intercontinental missiles, and long-range bombers. Over the next 10 years, this project is estimated to cost the federal government about $355 billion, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report. And other experts project that over the next 30 years, spending on things like modernizing facilities, buying replacement systems and upgrading existing weapons could top $1 trillion.
Not only does this increased spending undermine President Obama’s own global non-proliferation efforts that began in 2009, it’s also a significant long-term financial investment in weapons that don’t even respond to today’s threats. Meanwhile, pinched federal spending and deficit hawking continues to stall progress on domestic initiatives like education, the economy and jobs programs that Americans consistently say should be the nation’s top priority.
What would happen if, instead of building our nuclear arsenal, we invested those dollars on domestic initiatives like clean energy, infrastructure improvements, education, or health care? For $1 trillion, here are a few alternative things we could do for future generations:
- Invest in the education sector, which could create 26.7 million jobs;
- Double our nation’s nutrition assistance budget over the next five years;
- Power every household in the nation with wind energy for the next nine years;
- Double current Head Start enrollment for the next 55 years; or
- Provide every American currently living below the poverty line with free health care for the next seven years.
Back in 2009, President Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his support of nuclear disarmament (something the National Priorities Project knows a little bit about, as the organization is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year for our work on U.S. military spending). Let’s ask him to earn his right to keep it by not spending hundreds of billions of dollars into more nuclear weapons we don’t need, and instead investing here at home.