“I Cannot Support these Provisions”

July 17th, 2003 - by admin

by Hon. Dianne Feinstein, US Senate – A vote against Bush’s call to build new nuclear weapons


Mr. Chairman, I want to take a few minutes this morning to address what I consider to be perhaps one of the most important and consequential decisions we will make for the safety and security of our children and grandchildren: With this bill we are launching a new generation of nuclear weapons.

I am a nuclear child. I remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remember the pictures. I know what nuclear bombs can do. I know what radiation can do.

I do not want to be a party to launching schemes that will make the world less safe and secure. This bill contains funding for the next generation of US nuclear weapons, including funding for the study of so-called low-yield weapons, $6 million for advanced weapons concepts, $15 million for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, and $24.8 million to move forward test site preparation readiness so that the United States could test nuclear weapons within 18 months from the current 24-36 month time-to-test requirement.

I cannot support these provisions. I understand that the Chairman and Ranking Member has asked that amendments on these issues be deferred to the floor, and I intend to respect that wish. I do, however, want to take a few minutes here today to address this issue.

I strongly support a robust military to safeguard America’s national security interests. But I believe that if the United States opens the door to the development, testing, and deployment of a new generation of nuclear weapons we will make our nation less secure, not more.

Although nuclear weapons clearly retain a place in our overall national security strategy, I do not believe nuclear weapons should play the sort of central role in US security policy that some in this Administration appear to advocate, and that the bill before the Subcommittee today endorses.

Indeed, as we continue to prosecute the War on Terror, it should be a central tenet of US policy to do everything at our disposal to make nuclear weapons less desirable, less available, and less likely to be used.

But instead of ratcheting back our reliance on nuclear weapons, the Bush administration is looking for new ways to restructure our forces so that they are more “usable.” And that sends a very troubling message to others who might also aspire to get hold of or use nuclear weapons.

In fact, in a hearing of the Defense Appropriations Committee in May, I asked Secretary Rumsfeld about where the Administration was going on these issues, and he responded, in essence that there was nothing to be concerned about because current research is “just a study.”

But the fact of the matter is that the Administration has began to take concrete steps toward creating new classes of nuclear weapons and the wheels are beginning to grind to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons: That is what the funding in this bill is all about.

By seeking to build so-called “mini-nukes” which produce smaller explosions and to explore other advanced concepts in nuclear weapons design, the Administration is suggesting that we can make nuclear weapons less deadly. It is suggesting that we can make them more acceptable to use.

By seeking to develop a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, the Administration seems to be moving toward a military posture in which nuclear weapons are considered just like other weapons like a tank, a fighter aircraft, or a cruise missile.

And by seeking to speed up the time-to-test requirement for the Nevada test site, the Administration is taking us down a road that may well lead to the resumption of underground nuclear testing, overturning a 10 year moratorium. This could well have the result of leading other nuclear powers – and nuclear aspirants – to resume or start testing, actions that would fundamentally alter future non-proliferation efforts.

When the United States seeks to develop new nuclear weapons it sends exactly the wrong signal to others about the utility of nuclear weapons and thus lowers the threshold for their use. On the other hand, the US military, the strongest and most capable military force the world has ever seen, bar none, has plenty of effective conventional options at hand designed to meet the military requirements that the proponents of these new nuclear weapons claim they are needed for.

For example, we have conventional bunker-busters that range in size from 500 pounds to 5,000 pounds, and most are equipped with either a laser or GPS guidance system. A 5,000-pound bunker buster like the Guided Bomb Unit (GBU) 28/B is capable of penetrating up to 20 feet of reinforced concrete or 100 feet of earth. And the GBU-37 is thought to be capable of taking out a silo-based ICBM.

Mr. Chairman, with this conventional arsenal at our disposal, there is little additional military utility that these new nuclear weapons provide to the United States military. The United States must be the leader in the effort to delegitimize the use and utility of nuclear weapons. US contemplation of new nuclear weapons makes the use of all nuclear weapons more permissible – it legitimizes their use and by legitimizing nuclear weapons promotes their spread. And in so doing it puts us in greater danger should we ever have to fight a nuclear power or a terrorist group that seeks to get hold of weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, at a time when the United States brands as “evil” certain countries based, in part, on their pursuit of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction, we must be careful as we consider our own options and contingencies regarding nuclear weapons.

So I would urge my colleagues on this Subcommittee to think carefully about the implications of the nuclear weapons policy in this bill, and to ask themselves if they think that going down this path will led to a safer and more secure United States, or one that is less safe, less secure. And, when we get to the floor, I urge them to join me in support of amendments I and others intend to offer to strike funding for these programs.”