Jeb on Revolving Door, Nuclear Weapons

Governor_of_Florida_Jeb_Bush_at_FITN_2015_in_NH_by_Michael_Vadon_05

Still catching up after a busy month with the NH primary.   Here’s some of what Jeb Bush had to say December 19 in Windham.

From Jeb Bush’s Introductory Remarks on Lobbying Reform

We need to make sure that lobbyists don’t control everything. If you finish your term of service as an elected official you shouldn’t go out the back door [and] start lobbying the people that you were serving with the day before. There should be a six year ban on elected officials lobbying.

We ought to make sure there is total transparency, to make sure that if people have problems, that their government is the servant, rather than the master.

From the Q & A Period:

Judy: I was really impressed to hear about your proposal for a six-year ban on lobbying. And some of the people who rake in the most from lobbying are retired congressional staffers and also people who work at the Pentagon, both military and civilian. So I’d really like to know if you would extend that six-year ban to those people also.

Jeb Bush: That’s a good question. I’d have to look at the impact of that. But there should total transparency. So if you’re meeting with a lobbyist and you’re a staffer on a committee of great importance or you’re a big dog inside the Department of Defense and you’re being lobbied, there should be 24-hour notice. It should put be on the Internet. There should be complete transparency about this. Then people can make up their mind whether it’s appropriate or not. Then I think across the board, an open government, more transparent government is what we need. This president promised the most transparent government in American history, and we haven’t gotten it. We’ve gotten the exact opposite. So the best way to deal with the transparency issues is to open it up.

It could be that staffers, you know, that’s a revolving door as well. And it does make sense to look at it.

The other thing we need to do at the level of the Defense Department is make sure there’s more than three contractors. We’ve created such a confusing, convoluted procurement system, and it’s been lobbied up beyond belief, that you have the big defense contractors, and the cost is higher. They’re aggregators in effect. All the other parts of the operation they subcontract out. They use their influence to be able to get these contracts. There’s all sorts of legal costs associated with it. The warfighters don’t get the equipment necessary at the scene that they should. So one of the other elements is to embrace procurement reform, so that we have more contractors and it’s based on merits rather than influence.

Man in audience: Thank you, Governor. I was stationed at a nuclear missile site in Germany back in the Seventies. So I was a little astounded to hear …

Bush: … about the nuclear triad.

Man: Yeah, … a guy standing on the stage debating with you had no idea what the nuclear triad was. And when consistently asked over and again what he would do to modernize it, he had no answer. Could you fill him in, could you give us an answer?

Yes, it was breathtaking. I mean, it was breathtaking. I don’t know how else to describe it. I mean my face probably, my jaw dropped down. The triad is air, land, and sea launch capabilities to create a deterrent effect that has been extraordinarily effective since the World War II era and has brought stability to the world.

Trump’s advisor, communications director, this morning, I believe, said, “Hey, it’s not understanding the triad, that’s not the big deal. It is making sure you have a president who will use nuclear weapons.”

No. No. No. Fifteen yard penalty, loss of down. That’s not what the objective is. I mean, think about it. This is not a serious man with a serious proposal.

And we’ve allowed for the triad to languish, in a sense. We haven’t invested in modernizing it. And it’s both dangerous, not to do that, and we need to make sure that we have this deterrent situation. Which means that we need to …. Our submarine capability, which is perhaps, if I was answering the question, I’d would have said that’s probably the place where we need the greatest emphasis. Because the Ohio-class submarines need to be modernized. It needs to be done now. We can’t wait any longer. So across the board, all of the legs of our deterrent effect is important. But to have a president who does not understand the sober, somber responsibilities of having access to the nuclear codes. I mean, well, you wouldn’t, you must have, like, spit up your Diet Coke. (Laughter.)

This is the point. This is the point. Look, people in NH are going to have the chance to decide this election in many ways. And the Trump phenomenon is one to be respected. He’s appealed to people’s [inaudible] … for legitimate reasons people are angry.

But people in New Hampshire are going to have to ask themselves the question. Do they really want a guy, who doesn’t, you know, he may have thought that the nuclear triad was a tripod or something, a new kind of a camera or something. I don’t know. But do you really want someone who is entertaining, but is not a commander-in-chief, to be President of the United States?

Advertisements

Will Hillary Support De-alerting Nuclear Weapons?

Clinton 2 Concord 9-17-15 by AZA

Just catching up my blog after a busy few weeks.  First, here’s an exchange I had with Hillary Clinton December 3 in Dover, New  Hampshire.

Judy: I have a question for you. Do you support the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons?

Hillary Clinton: The goal? Yes, absolutely.

Judy: And do you support General Cartwright’s plan for de-alerting?

Hillary Clinton: I don’t know what it is, I can’t, I can’t … I’ll look it up. I’ll look it up. I know Cartwright, so I’ll look it up.

Judy: Okay, thank you.

So, six weeks after this exchange, I’d like to know if Hillary Clinton supports de-alerting our nuclear ICBMs, as proposed by  retired General James Cartwright, former commander of the U.S. Strategic Command.

Here’s a link to a Union of Concerned Scientists factsheet on de-alerting.

Lindsay Graham Supports Massive Rebuild of Nuclear Arsenal

clip_image002At a town meeting yesterday at the Franklin NH public library, the American Friends Service Committee’s Olivia Zink and I caught up with presidential candidate Lindsay Graham. We asked about the $1 trillion program to rebuild the US nuclear weapons arsenal. US nuclear labs certify annually that the stockpile is reliable, yet the South Carolina senator says we need the modernization program because the stockpile is deteriorating. While he said he was supportive of mutually negotiated nuclear arms reductions with Russia and China, he spoke out against the Iran nuclear deal. Graham endorsed a major buildup of US military forces in general, while calling for reforms in Pentagon spending.

Here’s a transcript of the interchange.

J. Elliott:  I actually want to ask you about nuclear weapons and I don’t expect to agree with you but I understand you’re very knowledgeable so I really want to understand your views. I understand that you’re supporting a massive rebuilding of our entire nuclear arsenal, or almost the entire arsenal. And if that is true, what I want to understand if we’re going to go ahead with that rebuilding and upgrading, how we’re going to comply with our commitment under Article VI of the Nonproliferation Treaty to advance towards mutually negotiated nuclear disarmament.

Sen. Graham: OK, number one, our nuclear deterrent force is in decline. Maintaining the nuclear stockpile is a priority for me as president. Because possessing weapons that won’t work is possessing an illusion. So, the stockpile is deteriorating. We have reduced the number of warheads. That’s fine with me. I don’t mind working with the Russians and the Chinese to lower the number of nuclear weapons in a responsible manner that the world possesses. I think being a leader in that regard is a good thing. Ronald Reagan was one of the biggest leaders of all when it came to trying to lessen the number of nuclear weapons that all of us possess, because they’re expensive and they’re obviously dangerous.

That is not inconsistent with modernization, with what you’re talking about. The Russians have already cheated twice on the Start Treaty. One of the prohibitions of the treaty was not to have basically a land-based cruise-type nuclear missile. We found that they cheated twice. So treaties are not any good if you don’t enforce them.

But here’s what I’m worried the most about in terms of nuclear weapons – the Iranians.

How many of you believe the Iranians have been trying to build a bomb, not a power plant? OK. Someone said, who said “Oh yeah”? It’s just obvious, isn’t it? How many people believe they’d use it if they’ve got it. Okay, now just slow down here for a minute. We all agree that they would use it if they got it. Shouldn’t the number one priority in the world be not letting them get it?

I don’t believe the Russians are going to attack us tomorrow. I don’t think the Chinese are. I think mutual assured destruction still works. You’ve got to have a nuclear strategic fleet that can survive a first attack. If you don’t, you will entice people to attack you. That’s why you need land-based missiles, sea-based nuclear missiles, and you need an air fleet so it would be hard to knock us all out at one time. It’s called the Triad. I think the Triad is still relevant in the modern world. But the one thing different about Russia and China, and in a way even North Korea – I mean, that guy is really bat-shit crazy – but I’m not so sure he going use the missiles as much as it’s an insurance policy for a regime http://unclear.

The difference between the Ayatollah and these other nut jobs is that he is possessed of a religious view that requires him to do certain things. Hitler, if he’d had a nuclear weapon, would have used it, right? He wanted a master race. These people want a master religion. So I think one bomb in the hands of the Ayatollah is one too many. Because when he says “Death to Israel,” I think he literally means it. I think his faith requires him to destroy the Jewish state. I think his faith requires him to convert other Muslims. And I know his faith requires him to come after infidels like us.

Now the Iranian people are different than the theocracy, but the theocracy is in charge. So my number one priority is I’d be open to reducing the nuclear stockpile. I want to modernize it so it’s relevant. But the one thing I would be closed-minded to is this deal with Iran. I would tear it up and start over because I don’t think you can police it. What I would do is tell the Ayatollah is if you want peaceful nuclear power programs, you can have it. Fifteen nations have nuclear power plants without the ability to enrich uranium. I don’t trust him to enrich uranium because he can take it from commercial to weapons-grade pretty quickly. So if you want power, you can have it. If you want a pathway to a bomb, forget it. If you want to buy more weapons, no until you change your behavior and stop becoming the largest state sponsor of terrorism. I’m not going to give you 100 billion dollars until you change the way you do business. And I would tell every company in the world if you do business with Iran, you can’t do business here. You can’t use American banks. And they’re going to have to pick between the 450 billion dollar Iranian economy and the 18 trillion dollar American banking system. I’d wait for the phone to ring and it would. And I would call the Ayatollah’s bluff and I would tell him if you really do want a nuclear weapon you’re not going to get it. And if you want to break out I’ll stop you. And if you choose a war you will lose it. Simply because if they ever develop a nuclear technology, they will share it with terrorists. They will one day use it. And the Arabs know that too. So in the name of non-proliferation you’re going to create a nuclear arms race in the Mideast if you don’t change this deal. Because the Arabs are not going to accept an arrangement with a nuclear weapon hanging over their head. That’s the way I see it.

Olivia Zink: But on this point, the trillion dollars that we’re going to spend on the nuclear stockpile –

Sen. Graham: It’s not that much but it’s significant.

Olivia Zink: But many corporations are profiting from this. We saw it after the Paris attacks, many of the corporate profits spiked. How to you insure peaceful and diplomatic solutions [that] don’t line the pockets of those who are profiting from these systems? So how do we make sure that we’re actually doing what’s right for our country but not insuring that we’re making some of the military-industrial complex corporations that are lobbying and going through the revolving door more profitable?

Sen. Graham: I don’t think that I will be your candidate, because here’s what I’m going do. I’m going to rebuild the military. I’m going to create a lot more jobs in Portsmouth than they have today. I’m going to expand the Navy from 275 ships to 350. I’m going to try to build 14 aircraft carriers instead of eleven. I’m going to try to increase the Army up to 500,000 versus 420[000] where it’s headed. By 2021 we’re going to be spending 2.3% of GDP on defense. What’s the historical average? Five. We’re going to be spending less than half than we than we normally spend to defend the nation. Do the threats justify that? No. Half the combat [?] squadrons in the Air Force won’t fly in 2021 because we don’t have enough money to train.

I’m not looking for a fair fight, I’m looking for an overwhelming advantage against any rational actor. I want the Chinese to know you can’t build your navy up strong enough to beat our navy. I want the Russians to know, think twice about it before you invade another country because you’ve got a new guy in town gonna kick the door in.

This is 1979. Some of you don’t know what I’m talking about, young people, but I want a 1980s approach. Do you think Putin would be in the Ukraine today if Reagan were president? I don’t. So it’s time to reset the world, it’s time to rebuild the military and use it smartly. Reform the Pentagon. John McCain has been the chief critic of the military-industrial complex second to none. People went to jail because of the Boeing tanker deal. John is trying to police an out-of-control system. The cost overruns of the F-35 are very problematic. No one has spent more time trying to get the Pentagon into better shape than Senator McCain and I think it’s wonderful.

Cost plus contracts need to be replaced by fixed-price contracts.

To the military retirees in this room, because we all live so much longer, we’re going to have to change the retirement system prospectively, and we did. At 20 years prospectively, you’re not going to get 50% of your pay when you retire, you’ll get 40%. And we’ll make up the difference by having a savings plan were you can put 5% of your base pay into an account. We’ll match that 5% from 2 years to 20 years. And you’ll get it when you’re 60. When you add the two pots up together you’re made whole but it defers some of the money and saves a lot of money for the Pentagon, and I think it’s still fair. For the military retirees like me and John McCain, at our income level we’re going to have to pay a little more in Tri-Care because we haven’t adjusted the premiums since 1995. And 20% of the military budget’s going to be healthcare. That’s got to be controlled. So count me in, in terms of procurement reform, acquisition reform, and all things that make the Pentagon run better, but we’ve got to build up our military footprint. If we don’t, we’re going to invite aggression.

Santorum Supports Nuclear Test Resumption

Rick_Santorum_by_Gage_Skidmore_3

November 12 at the NH State House, former Senator Rick Santorum reiterated his support for resumption of nuclear testing. He made his comments to me while exiting the building after registering for the New Hampshire primary. This follows similar remarks by Santorum to GUI bird dog Will Thomas last July 29 and me on August 3.

The US conducted its last nuclear test in 1992. President Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1998, but Congress refused to ratify it. The CTBT has not yet been ratified. Fortunately, since 1999 the US and all other nuclear powers except North Korea have abided by the CTBT.

Ratification is still important. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), the treaty “would make it nearly impossible for any non-nuclear countries to develop a thermonuclear weapon and place limitations on countries that already possess nuclear weapon capabilities. The treaty is a vital step toward the goal of nuclear non-proliferation.” Recently, Secretary of State Kerry suggested that it‘s time for the US to finally ratify the CTBT.

Santorum’s call to resume testing is a dangerous step backward. He justified it by claiming testing is needed to assure the reliability of our nuclear stockpile. Santorum apparently believes that to protect itself, the US needs to be assured of its continued ability to incinerate the human race.

Leaving aside the twisted logic of the nuclear age, Santorum is just plain wrong about the need for testing to assure reliability of the current stockpile. The national nuclear lab at Los Alamos certifies the reliability of nuclear weapons annually, based on methods known as “science based stockpile stewardship.” According to PSR, “Since 1999, computing power has vastly exceeded the performance goals that the Energy Department established as necessary for stockpile stewardship. It is now possible to successfully maintain the [existing] U.S. nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing.”

Santorum made his comments when I asked about his endorsement of the $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program, now underway with the support of both the Obama administration and Congress. The modernization program includes new nuclear weapons as well as replacement or rebuilding of the entire triad of delivery vehicles – bombers, submarines, and ICBMs. Proponents have not overtly said that modernization will require testing. But it may be part of the hidden agenda. According to the Ploughshares Fund, modernization “could require explosive testing of new models, which would violate the CTBT and encourage other states to test.” One more reason to oppose nuclear weapons modernization and push for CTBT ratification.

Kasich Shrugs Off Impact of Military Lobbyists

Kasich 3-30-15 photo by AZA

On October 9 in Concord, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told me he would “probably not” increase the one-year period that retired Pentagon officials must wait before lobbying on behalf of military contractors.

Kasich, who is running for president, cited two reasons. He claimed that as president, he would be immune from the influence of lobbyists. And he said that members of Congress vote for military spending mainly to protect facilities in their districts, not because of lobbying.

If he’s correct, why did the defense sector spent $128 million lobbying in 2014, as documented by Open Secrets?

And why is it that 70% of retired generals go to work for the military industrial complex? Examples aren’t hard to find. Ret. General Jack Keane works for General Dynamics and Ret. General Anthony Zinni is on BAE’s US board, according to a 2014 Nation article by Lee Fang. As reported in this blog April 11, Admiral Richard Mies went to work for Babcock and Wilcox after retiring. The firm helps manage the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. These are only a few of the many high-ranking officers who have become lobbyists.

It isn’t just former officers who cash in. Members of Congress, their staffers, and civilian employees of the Pentagon also go through the revolving door. For example, former House Arms Services Chair Buck McKeon and his former staffers are lobbying based on their military-industrial ties.  (See February 5 blog post.)

The problem is that knowing they can cash in after retirement gives government officials a huge incentive to curry favor with military contractors before retirement.

According to POGO, “The National Association for Corporate Directors has a … [program] … specifically for high-ranking retired and soon-to-be retired military officers.” The name of the program? “From Battlefield to Boardroom.”

Gov. Kasich claims the military industry is just wasting its money on lobbying.

If only.

Here’s a transcript of my question and Gov. Kasich’s response:

Judy Elliott: On the topic of military spending and reforming the Pentagon, the majority of retired generals go to work for the defense industry and just knowing that they can have these lucrative positions after they retire is a real incentive, I’m afraid, for them to curry favor with the defense industry while they’re still in uniform. So my specific question is, would you favor increasing the period that high-ranking defense officials have to wait before they lobby? That period is one year.

Gov. Kasich: Probably not. I mean, you know, I didn’t know you would know it was a year. Look, just because you’re there and you want to get a job after you’re there doesn’t mean you don’t have character. The way I look at defense systems, and this is how I got to the B-2 issue. Okay, the B-2’s supposed to fly into the middle of the Soviet Union in a nuclear war and drop more nuclear weapons. I’m like, we don’t need to do that. So let’s limit the production of the plane, take the [remainder?] of the money that we save and buy some of these stand-off weapons, which people didn’t know about at the time.

As a President I get to propose a budget, and I’m not interested in proposing things that don’t create the strength that we need just because there’s a bunch of people yelling for a certain system. So the way you write budgets is you get people who do understand what we really need in defense and you go over it and you figure out which are the critical systems that you need. And that’s the way I do it. It wouldn’t matter to me who is influencing who. Do you see what I’m saying?

Now on Capitol Hill, the thing that drives a lot of the parochial defense issues are the districts. You know, it’s the district issue. You know, they build this plane in my district or they have this base in my district or they have this, and it becomes parochial. Now, we have to break that down. I was one of the sponsors of Facebook. You know, I mean you just can’t put money into something you don’t need any more just because, you know, you think it’s a program you need keep in your district. Now you look at Pease, you know, right here in New Hampshire, they’ve been able to turn lemons into lemonade. And we just, we have to just make hard decisions when it comes to defense. So, believe me just because some General Easy works for Boeing or somebody doesn’t mean that they get what they want. Because they don’t decide what goes in the budget. They’ll lobby, they’ll pressure, they’ll push, but they’re not the ones who make the decision.

And I gotta tell you something. You didn’t, I know you didn’t hear this. But do you know what’s it’s like to stop a major program of 132 bombers at a billion dollars apiece and limit it to 20? Do you have any idea what that took? In some respects, that was even a more significant accomplishment for me that even getting the budget balanced. Because that doesn’t happen. But we got it done because we used an intellectual argument and we pushed hard. And here in New Hampshire, I think I had, I think Sununu and Charlie Bass were both with me at the time on that. I don’t remember where Judd was, I just don’t remember. But, you know, it was a growing number of people that said we have to restrain this.

Asking Hillary About Nuclear Weapons

clip_image002 clip_image004

Finally! I’ve spent a couple of months trying to ask Hillary Clinton about nuclear weapons. At a September 17 town hall event in Concord, New Hampshire, I finally got to do it. Here’s how it went:

Judy: There has been a lot of talk about Iran but I am so worried about U.S. nuclear weapons also. We have almost 5,000 nuclear weapons, many on hair-trigger alert. Now there’s a plan to build … [spend] a trillion more dollars for new warheads, new planes, a whole new fleet of submarines. It’s going to make the weapons makers a whole lot of money, but I am personally terrified of nuclear annihilation. Do you support this renewed spending?

Clinton: One of the highest goals of the Obama Administration was to try to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. And we did get a treaty with Russia that was limited but at least it continued the process. Trying to rid the world of nuclear weapons – we have a long way to go, and we’re just going to have to figure out how to manage it. One of the reasons why I supported the Iran deal [was] because it put a lid on one more country with nuclear weapons at least for a number of years.

In the crowd afterwards, Arnie Alpert spoke to Clinton and pointed out that the nuclear weapons modernization plan contradicts nonproliferation goals. She replied that a trillion dollars was ridiculous and the money could be used for other needs.

I wasn’t the only voter last night to ask Clinton about military policy. Dwight Haynes, a retired Methodist minister, started off the evening’s questions.

Dwight: I’m Dwight Haines and in 1950, at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge, I had the privilege to meet … Dwight Eisenhower. … And … after that event I heard him speak against the growing military- industrial complex. As I listened last night [to the Republican debate] … it seems to me the Republicans are determined to put more and more money into defense, regardless of what else happens. So I’m wondering, as president, would you be willing to set some kind of limits on how much we put into the defense piece of the pie? Also, will you make sure that corporations that sell weapons systems don’t influence our politics?

Clinton: Two good questions. I’m a great admirer of President Eisenhower… I think he was very far-sighted when he gave that speech about the necessity for us to be careful about the military-industrial complex, as he called it. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we have always had two conflicting imperatives. We need to have a strong defense, everybody agrees with that. But how we do it and how much it costs is subject to debate. And I think we are overdue for a very thorough debate in our country about what we need and how we are willing to pay for it. Because I think some of the decisions that have been made, because of the sequester, which just cut without regard for the effectiveness of the program or the impact of it being eliminated, was much too blunt an instrument. I think we should have a high-level commission of really well-respected people from different walks of life, who have not lived their life completely in the military-industrial world, really taking a hard look, the same way we have had to in the past look at closing bases. A system was put in place where there could be somewhat less influence from Congressional politics, and I’d like to see such a commission come up with recommendations. Because what I hear all the time, that I saw as a senator – I served on the Armed Services Committee – [and] what I saw as Secretary of State is that very often the leadership of the Defense Department wants to eliminate certain spending, or wants to change it, maybe put it somewhere else where they think it’ll do more good, and … they’re stopped by Congress. So what I’m looking for is a way of avoiding that.

Clinton was not the first candidate I’ve asked about nuclear weapons (see earlier posts), but she’s among those I most wanted to hear from. She’s a front-runner and she has a lot of foreign policy experience. It was great to hear her positive comments on nuclear abolition and restraining the arms budget. But I wish she’d be more specific.

A little background. President Obama endorsed nuclear weapons abolition during his first campaign. He reaffirmed that goal in a speech in Prague in 2009. Initial progress was exciting. The President negotiated the New Start treaty in 2010, limiting deployed warheads to 1,550 each for the United States and Russia. The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review endorsed “a multilateral effort to limit, reduce, and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide.” The NPR also said the United States would not develop any new nuclear weapons.

In a June 2013 speech in Berlin, President Obama went further, suggesting that the two powers negotiate an additional one-third reduction of deployed nuclear weapons.

Apparently even deeper reductions were discussed by American policy-makers. Journalist Marc Herman reported that computer modelling at the National Defense University showed that reductions to 500 nuclear weapons for each side would provide both countries with a “minimal deterrent” sufficient to prevent a first strike from the other.[1] While it wouldn’t be nuclear abolition, such reductions would represent genuine progress.

But recently progress has stalled and a frightening new arms race is heating up.

Part of the reason, as explained by James Carroll, is that “[in] order to get the votes of Senate Republicans to ratify the START treaty, Obama made what turned out to be a devil’s bargain. He agreed to lay the groundwork for a vast ‘modernization’ of the US nuclear arsenal, which, in the name of updating an aged system, is already morphing into a full-blown reinvention of the arms cache at an estimated future cost of more than a trillion dollars. In the process, the Navy wants … twelve new strategic submarines; the Air Force wants… a new long-range strike bomber force. Bombers and submarines would … both be outfitted with next-generation missiles.” Modernization, under the guise of “life extension” for existing weapons, also involves creation of upgraded warheads, contrary to intentions stated in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

This is why we need to know whether Clinton opposes nuclear weapons modernization. The problem is not just the immense expense, using money that, as she told Arnie, is needed elsewhere. (Bernie Sanders said something similar at a forum in Portsmouth last May, but like Clinton was vague about his exact stance.) Even if nuclear weapons modernization were without cost, the program represents a frightening about-face from Obama’s early progress towards nuclear abolition.

Once the Pentagon is invested in the new weapons systems, as is already happening, the new arms race will be hard to reverse. And of course, defense contractors will reap hundreds of billions of dollars building the new weapons. Their profit motives will continue to drive spending on nuclear weapons.

So here are questions we should ask Clinton and the other candidates:

· How can the United States comply with Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty? Article 6 states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

· If you become president, will you stop the nuclear weapons modernization program?

· Will you commit to reduce the United States’ military stockpile to 1000 nuclear weapons in your first term, and 500 in your second term?

According James Carroll, “[If] a commander-in-chief were to order nuclear reductions into the hundreds, the result might actually be a transformation of the American political conscience. In the process, the global dream of a nuclear-free world could be resuscitated and the commitment of non-nuclear states (including Iran) to refrain from nuclear-weapons development could be rescued. Most crucially, there would no longer be any rationale for the large-scale reinvention of the American nuclear arsenal, a deadly project this nation is even now preparing to launch.

Let’s make sure that the candidates address these issues.  The more of us who get out and talk to them, the better.


[1] In 2009, a report by the Federation of American Scientists also said that reductions to “initially 1,000 warheads, and later a few hundred warheads, are more than adequate to serve as a deterrent against anyone unwise enough to attack the United States with nuclear weapons.”

Lincoln Chafee vs. Lindsay Graham on Nuclear Weapons Modernization

Lincoln Chafee  2015 public domain US Senate101202-N-TT977-283

On Labor Day, I asked both Lincoln Chafee and Lindsay Graham whether they opposed the $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization budget. Their answers could not have been more different.

At the NH AFL-CIO’s Labor Day breakfast, former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee told me flatly that he was opposed to  nuclear weapons modernization. His answer was the most unequivocal that I’ve had from any candidate. He said that he wanted to go back to the days when the US negotiated with Soviet Premier Gorbachev for arms reductions.

Later that day, as we were assembling for the Labor Day parade in Milford, Senator Lindsay Graham told me that he was more worried about one potential Iranian nuclear weapon than about the 5000 weapons currently in the U.S. military stockpile. He said he supports nuclear weapons modernization because the U.S. needs to keep its weapons reliable and there is evidence that they are not.

I hope to get more detailed answers from both candidates in town hall events.