They are also considering the same strategy for two other changes pushing back toward the Department of Defense’s massive nuclear modernization project, according to a congressional assistant who spoke on condition of anonymity. One would reset the funds for the W87-1 warhead, which will be used with the new missiles, and another would remove a requirement that the energy department produce at least 80 plutonium trenches a year by 2030; plutonium is a core material needed for nuclear weapons.
Garamendi acknowledged that a vote to delay GBSD could have a greater chance of success on the floor of the house than during Wednesday’s markup session. “The Committee on Armed Services is about the military, and many of my colleagues believe that more is better … [that] we can never have enough atomic bombs; we can never have enough delivery systems, ”he said.
Still, if every House member were to vote on the amendment right now, Garamendi admitted he did not think it would have enough support to pass. Between now and later in the year, however, Garamendi is optimistic that perceptions may change. This is because the White House at the time was supposed to complete a Nuclear Posture Review, which guides US policy on nuclear weapons and can help whip votes in his and Kanna’s favor.
According to the congressman’s aide, the Biden administration invited the Working Group on Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control, chaired by Garamendi, to the White House for a meeting earlier this year. The reduction came after the administration – in a disappointing move for the sake of arms control – increased funding for GBSD in its budget proposal for the financial year 2022. However, the staff member said the meeting was the first time an administration was willing to hear more critical arguments since the program began under President Barack Obama.
Garamendi and Khanna’s proposal to delay GBSD would not mark an end to the US military’s use of intercontinental ballistic missiles known as the land-based leg of the nuclear triad. But it could save the government tens of billions of dollars and also buy time to have a bigger debate about whether this kind of weapon should exist at all, Garamendi said.
Meanwhile, other lawmakers may offer an amendment during today’s markup after a minor concession to the GBSD program, such as examining the viability of continuing to use Minuteman III for the next 10 to 20 years. But Khanna argued that Congress already knows that extending the life of the system is possible, and as Garamendi said, “It avoids the fundamental issue.”
As they seek to gather support in the coming months, the two legislators already have strong support from the arms control community, which has sounded the alarm about the dangers of nuclear weapons.
Monica Montgomery, Advocate Coordinator for the Council for a Livable World, said: “The combination of the vulnerability of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the risk of miscalculating the need for their use in a moment of uncertainty and the overall cost of GBSD should make Congress question know whether plans to completely replace US ICBMs at existing deployed levels are the best choice for US security. “
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