Rick Santorum on Nuclear Weapons Modernization

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Olivia Zink and I attended WMUR’s “Conversation with the Candidate” with Rick Santorum on Monday, August 3.

Following the taped portion of the show, Olivia questioned Senator Santorum about the influence of the for-profit nuclear weapons labs. Using the example of Lockheed’s illegal lobbying to extend its contract to run Sandia National Labs, Olivia said that the labs have used their influence to advocate for the $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program.

Senator Santorum asserted that we need to modernize nuclear weapons because, since we stopped nuclear testing, there is no assurance that they will work. Apparently he feels that this makes them ineffective as a deterrent. He said he was unhappy that the US stopped testing nuclear weapons. I countered that we don’t need to upgrade nuclear weapons to make sure they work. Rather, they can be maintained by replacing aging parts with similar parts, rather than upgrading the weapons.

I said, “[US nuclear weapons] are reliable if they can just be maintained, but what the nuclear weapons labs and some of the weapons manufacturers are doing, which is very profitable for them, is to use the maintenance of those weapons as a guise to design and build new nuclear weapons. Same with the submarines, the bombers, and the missiles. It is a trillion dollar program, it’s going to cost the tax payers a lot of money, and we don’t need it.”

At that point host Josh McElveen intervened and said that Senator Santorum had to leave. Too bad, it’s very difficult to actually engage candidates on this issue.

The issue is important. Life Extension Programs (LEPs) originally intended to replace aging parts on nuclear weapons are now being used to upgrade those weapons, in effect creating new nuclear weapons. This violates commitments in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

If you’d like an in-depth look at these issues, see “Transforming the US Strategic Posture & Weapons Complex for a Transition to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World,” especially Chapter 5. Primary author was Dr. Robert Civiak of Lebanon, NH.

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