Rick Santorum on Nuclear Weapons Modernization

Rick_Santorum_by_Gage_Skidmore_3

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.

Walker: Iran Justifies US Nuclear Spending

Scott Walker Judy WMUR 7-16-15

Presidential candidate Scott Walker uses Iran’s potential nuclear capacity as a justification for expanded spending on US nuclear weapons. Apparently the immense stockpile we have now isn’t strong enough for him.

Walker made his remarks on July 16, in response to a question I asked on WMUR’s “Conversation with the Candidate.” Yet despite his apparent concerns about Iran developing a nuclear weapon, two days later Walker said he would terminate the new Iranian nuclear agreement immediately after his inauguration. Walker also suggested he would be ready to take military action right away. (See Huffington Post including video commentary 7-20-15.)

While the US has thousands of nuclear warheads and fleets of bombers, subs, and missiles to deliver them, Iran has yet to build a single nuclear weapon.

Walker’s approach is not unique, unfortunately. On June 24 in Hooksett, NH, candidate George Pataki said he was more worried about Iran’s nuclear capabilities than about spending plans to upgrade the US stockpile. (See earlier report.)

Here’s a transcript of our exchange on WMUR. It was aired July 17. You can view it at http://bit.ly/1RNnztl .  Please get out and talk to the candidates.  It’s important.

Judy: Governor, the U.S. still has almost 5000 nuclear weapons in its military stockpile, and many are on hair-trigger alert. And now the Obama Administration and the Pentagon plan to spend $1 trillion more on nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. It’s going to be very profitable for the private weapons labs and for the Pentagon contractors. Do you support this plan?

Governor Walker: Well, I think overall we have to have the capacity to defend ourselves. And unlike when I came of age during the Cold War when we thought it was the old Soviet Union, today it’s not just places like Russia and China and elsewhere that [are] kind of a mixed bag. Increasingly, even with this recent deal proposed with Iran, I’m very concerned about their capacity to look at intercontinental ballistic missiles and their capacity there. I’m worried about what that could mean for the future, not just for Israel and others in the region, but potentially what it could mean for the United States. And on behalf of all of the children in this country I want to make sure that they are safe and sound for generations to come.

Judy: So do you support the plan?

Governor Walker: Well, I’m not necessarily supporting the Obama plan. I do believe though we need to have a nuclear triad which includes all three legs. And I think part of it goes beyond just what you asked about. I think we need to have a replacement for the Ohio-based nuclear submarines that are part of what kept us safe for so many years and we’ll be going forward.

George Pataki (and John Sununu ) on Nuclear Weapons

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I asked presidential candidate and former New York Gov. George Pataki a couple of questions at Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett on June 24. Here is a summary of the substance of our exchange, though the words are not exact.

Question (1-on-1): Do you agree with the program to rebuild U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems?

Gov. Pataki: I’m more concerned about Iran and keeping them from getting nuclear weapons.

Question: But do you support the $1 trillion plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems?

Gov. Pataki: I believe we need to spend what’s required to keep us safe. (Turns away.)

Question (asked later, when Pataki is talking with the small group gathered at the event): I asked you earlier about nuclear weapons. Our nuclear weapons labs are privately run now. The corporations that run them – Bechtel, Battelle, & so on – are making immense profits and the budgets are escalating. How do we diminish the control of corporations over federal policy? [Oops… I was reminded later that Battelle is a lab, not a contractor.]

Gov. Pataki: First, I’m not surprised about the huge amount of waste. That happens with everything the government is involved in. We need to eliminate government waste. Second, we need to change the ability of private interests to influence government. There are over 400 former members of Congress who are registered lobbyists. Also the tax code is incomprehensible. If I’m President, I’ll propose a law with a life-time ban on anyone who has served a term in Congress becoming a registered lobbyist.

More of Governor Pataki’s comments on international relations, military spending and security policy:

· We should strengthen our military, not so that we use it but so that we don’t have to use it. A strong America is a safe America.

· Obama is too weak and needs to follow through on his threats. Allies don’t trust us, enemies don’t fear us.

· The Iranian nuclear deal is too weak.

· We should support the Egyptian regime that cracked down on the Islamic Brotherhood.

· We shouldn’t cut back on military training funds to save money.

My comments

Gov. Pataki doesn’t seem at all phased by the idea of the $1 trillion nuclear weapons spending plan. A bit of a contrast to Chris Christie who suggested the money might be better spent on other parts of the military budget, and Bernie Sanders who said the money would be better spent on human services.

It was curious that when questioned about the huge profits and cost overruns created by the private contractors who run our nuclear weapons labs, Pataki blamed the problem on “big government.” Come again???

Incidentally, on the way to the Pataki event I stopped by at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord to hear John Sununu talk about his new book on George H. W. Bush. Though I’ve never agreed with his viewpoints, I thought he might have something interesting to say about the progress on disarmament made at the time the Cold War ended. But I didn’t hear much that was new. He did say that Bush was a skilled diplomat and avoided the triumphalism that might have made progress with the Soviets impossible, which was interesting. But Sununu’s overall viewpoint seemed to be that that progress towards disarmament under the first George Bush was possible because Ronald Reagan had “strengthened” the economy and made it impossible for the USSR to compete. By contrast, Sununu sees Obama as weak in foreign policy. Like Pataki, Sununu said that Obama had lost the trust of allies and that adversaries no longer fear the US. He also said that the proposed Iran deal was too weak and would never win approval, but that it might have done so if Obama been strong enough to stick to the original criteria.  But he said he’d rather talk about George H.W. Bush.  Sounded like an interesting book.

In any case, Pataki and Sununu both seem to hew to the “peace through strength” line. I think it’s worth considering this narrative and being able to talk about it. A couple of questions:

· Has NATO been anything but aggressive towards Russia since the end of the Cold War? Why do we characterize the US stance towards Russia as “weak?”

· Suppose that the “peace through strength” advocates are right that the US nuclear stockpile has deterred nuclear attack by Russia for several decades. Will this always work? What about accidents, insane leaders, etc? Do we really think that the “balance of terror” will protect us from nuclear annihilation indefinitely? Is it ever morally defensible to maintain a stockpile of weapons that can destroy life on earth?

· How does maintaining a huge nuclear stockpile deter other nations and terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons? Doesn’t the lack of progress on disarmament actually make proliferation more likely?

Christie Says Nuclear Weapons Discussion Needed

Chris Christie AZA photo 5-12-15

At a May 12 town hall meeting in Pembroke, NH, I asked NJ Gov. Chris Christie a question about the planned $1 trillion expansion of the US nuclear weapons capability. He responded by suggesting the money would be better spent on other aspects of our defense. I think the money slated for spending on nuclear weapons modernization should be spent on human needs, not, as Christie suggested, other weapons systems. Nevertheless, I’m glad he agreed that “the issue you’re pointing out on nuclear weaponry are the kind of things we should have a robust open debate about in this country… I know what you’re talking about but I bet you not many people know that that’s what’s going on.” It will be an accomplishment if we can get candidates of both parties to discuss nuclear weapons policy, and how the profit motives of Pentagon contracts influences nuclear weapons spending.

This is a transcript of my interaction with Governor Christie:

Judy:  I worry a lot about the fact that the US still has almost 5,000 nuclear weapons in its military stockpile in addition to what’s been retired. And 500 of those, almost 500 of those are on hair-trigger alert. And now the Obama administration and the Pentagon have a plan for a vast expansion of our nuclear weapons capabilities. It’s going to be very good for the weapons makers and the Pentagon contractors. Do you support this expansion of our nuclear weapons?

Christie:  I think we need to have a complete re-evaluation of our defense strategy.  I think this President has not spent enough on defense and what he has spent he’s spent the wrong way.  We’re heading down to a 260-ship navy.  50% of the aircraft in the Air Force right now are not combat-ready.  We’re down a hundred thousand soldiers in the Army.  And yet he’s talking about doing things like you just mentioned.  And at the same time he’s in the midst of negotiations with Iran to put them on a path to obtain a nuclear weapon which will lead to even more nuclear devices in the Middle East because if they get them, believe me, Egypt, Jordan, the Emiratis, the Saudis are all going to want nuclear weapons.  [They’re] not going to let the Iranians hold them hostage.  So I’m going to talk about next Monday when I come back to Portsmouth [NH] in detail about our defense strategy, intelligence, and our alliances around the world.  And I’ll talk in detail about that.  But what I will tell you is that I think this President has made our military weaker and less directed and focused than any time it’s been since the late 1970s. And you see what’s happening around the world as a result in part of that because our adversaries don’t fear us any longer and our allies don’t know whether they can trust us to stand up with them.  And so these type of things like the issue you’re pointing out on nuclear weaponry are the kind of things we should have a robust open debate about in this country and say “Here are the resources we have.  How do the military experts and the civilians who run the military think is the best way to spend this money?”  Americans have had no hesitancy to spend to defend our country and I would argue to you it’s the most important thing a President has to do is defend the lives of the American people.  And I think this President has lost touch on that.  And the example that you’re giving is another example of how … I bet you not many people … I know what you’re talking about but I bet you not many people know that that’s what’s going on.  And the same way that many people don’t know that we’re headed down to a 260-ship Navy [and] half the Air Force is not combat ready.  I mean, the American people would be appalled to know this.   So we need to have a big discussion about that. I’m going to start that discussion from my perspective next Monday in Portsmouth. Because the world is a much more dangerous place than it was when Barack Obama became President and we need to be ready.  I say we spend on defense not to wage war but to prevent war.  But you’ve got to spend it the right way if you’re going to prevent war.  So I think you raise a really good issue.

Christie Agrees Nuclear Weapons Policy Discussion Needed

 

At a May 12 town hall meeting in Pembroke, NH, I asked NJ Gov. Chris Christie a question about the planned $1 trillion expansion of the US nuclear weapons capability. He responded by suggesting the money would be better spent on other aspects of our defense. I think the money slated for spending on nuclear weapons modernization should be spent on human needs, not, as Christie suggested, other weapons systems. Nevertheless, I’m glad he agreed that “the issue you’re pointing out on nuclear weaponry are the kind of things we should have a robust open debate about in this country… I know what you’re talking about but I bet you not many people know that that’s what’s going on.” It will be an accomplishment if we can get candidates of both parties to discuss nuclear weapons policy, and how the profit motives of Pentagon contracts influences nuclear weapons spending.

This is a transcript of my interaction with Governor Christie:

Judy:  I worry a lot about the fact that the US still has almost 5,000 nuclear weapons in its military stockpile in addition to what’s been retired. And 500 of those, almost 500 of those are on hair-trigger alert. And now the Obama administration and the Pentagon have a plan for a vast expansion of our nuclear weapons capabilities. It’s going to be very good for the weapons makers and the Pentagon contractors. Do you support this expansion of our nuclear weapons?

Christie:  I think we need to have a complete re-evaluation of our defense strategy.  I think this President has not spent enough on defense and what he has spent he’s spent the wrong way.  We’re heading down to a 260-ship navy.  50% of the aircraft in the Air Force right now are not combat-ready.  We’re down a hundred thousand soldiers in the Army.  And yet he’s talking about doing things like you just mentioned.  And at the same time he’s in the midst of negotiations with Iran to put them on a path to obtain a nuclear weapon which will lead to even more nuclear devices in the Middle East because if they get them, believe me, Egypt, Jordan, the Emiratis, the Saudis are all going to want nuclear weapons.  [They’re] not going to let the Iranians hold them hostage.  So I’m going to talk about next Monday when I come back to Portsmouth [NH] in detail about our defense strategy, intelligence, and our alliances around the world.  And I’ll talk in detail about that.  But what I will tell you is that I think this President has made our military weaker and less directed and focused than any time it’s been since the late 1970s. And you see what’s happening around the world as a result in part of that because our adversaries don’t fear us any longer and our allies don’t know whether they can trust us to stand up with them.  And so these type of things like the issue you’re pointing out on nuclear weaponry are the kind of things we should have a robust open debate about in this country and say “Here are the resources we have.  How do the military experts and the civilians who run the military think is the best way to spend this money?”  Americans have had no hesitancy to spend to defend our country and I would argue to you it’s the most important thing a President has to do is defend the lives of the American people.  And I think this President has lost touch on that.  And the example that you’re giving is another example of how … I bet you not many people … I know what you’re talking about but I bet you not many people know that that’s what’s going on.  And the same way that many people don’t know that we’re headed down to a 260-ship Navy [and] half the Air Force is not combat ready.  I mean, the American people would be appalled to know this.   So we need to have a big discussion about that. I’m going to start that discussion from my perspective next Monday in Portsmouth. Because the world is a much more dangerous place than it was when Barack Obama became President and we need to be ready.  I say we spend on defense not to wage war but to prevent war.  But you’ve got to spend it the right way if you’re going to prevent war.  So I think you raise a really good issue.

Fiorina Comment on Nuclear Weapons

I did attend Carly Fiorina’s presentation to Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security yesterday.  (See 4/29 post below.)  Ms. Fiorina outlined a very aggressive approach to US security.  She said that we “need the strongest military on the face of the planet.  We … [should be] … prepared to invest what is necessary.  Everyone must know it.”   She said that after her inauguration, her first call would be to Bibi Netanyahu.  She seems to view the Iran Framework Agreement more according to the Israeli than the US State Department interpretation.

Not surprisingly, the moderator did not pose the question I submitted.  However, I approached Ms. Fiorina after the formal question period.  Here is our exchange, as accurately as I could note it down a few minutes later:

Judy:  As you know, there are plans for massive expansion of the US nuclear weapons capability, costing $1 trillion dollars over 30 years.  Do you support it?

Fiorina: I do not support it.  I also do not support Iran getting nuclear weapons.

Judy:  But you do not support the expansion of our nuclear weapons capability?

Fiorina:  I do not.

Since there was no time for a longer discussion and no one else heard the exchange, I am not sure what to make of this.  Perhaps she does not support the expansion.  Perhaps she supports the expansion but thinks it can be done for less than $1 trillion.

Interesting, though. I plan to attend brunch with Bernie Sanders tomorrow morning and hope to ask him the same question.

Military Contractors Influence Presidential Forum Agenda

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/96/Trident_C4_first_launch.jpg/481px-Trident_C4_first_launch.jpgAmericans for Peace, Prosperity, and Security holds its first New Hampshire national security forum on April 30 in Manchester, with featured speaker Carly Fiorina.

APPS, which says it favors “strong foreign policy,” has an agenda that focuses on  military readiness; “engagement” with Iran, Russia, China, and ISIS; and cybersecurity,

While APPS says the candidates will be questioned by “educated volunteers,” there seems little question about whose agenda is being served. APPS NH Advisory Board chair is Walt Havenstein, former CEO of defense contractor heavy-hitters BAE Systems and SAIC. And of the remaining 21 Board members, five also represent New Hampshire companies with defense contracts: Rich Ashooh of BAE; James Bell of Bedford’s EPE, a Bedford firm (manufacturing military electronics, among other products); Gerardine Ferlins of Citronics, a Hollis firm (military electronics, again); Jason Novak of Fat Mongoose Technologies (with military micro radios in its product line); and Ken Solinsky of Insight Technologies (military optical systems including lasers, targeting, and night vision). In addition, board member Paul Speltz is former president of Kissinger Associates, a firm with strong ties to the national security complex (to say the least).

“Our students and faculty are eager to participate,” according to Mike Hickey, Interim Dean of UNH Manchester. Hickey, too, is a member of the APPS Advisory Board. A former telecommunications executive, he lists numerous ties with the national security complex on his LinkedIn profile.

I hope to ask Carly Fiorina a question about our nuclear arsenal tomorrow. But I’m not counting on it. Questions are to be submitted in advance to APPS.

So here’s my question: “The US already has nearly 5,000 nuclear weapons in its military stockpile, many of them on hair-trigger alert. Do you favor the $1 trillion plan to create a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, which will bring huge profits to nuclear weapons manufacturers?  How can we keep these corporations from dominating national security policy?”

The event with Fiorina will be held 11:30 AM in room P-201 at UNH Manchester, 88 Commercial Street. APPS will hold more events throughout the primary season in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina.