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New Report to Expose War Industry Lobby Behind $264 Billion US Nuclear Missile 'Boondoggle'

Progressive lawmakers are urging Biden to halt the missile program, arguing it would "divert limited resources from higher priority needs."

An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska off the coast of California. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge/U.S. Navy)

A new report by the Federation of American Scientists set for publication next week will reportedly argue that U.S. plans to spend up to $264 billion on construction and maintenance of a new nuclear missile are mostly being fueled by intense lobbying from the powerful weapons industry, not rational or humane strategic objectives.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that there has not been a serious consideration of what role these Cold War-era weapons are supposed to play in a post-Cold War security environment," the FAS assessment of the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) project will say, according to new reporting from The Guardian.

Last year, The Guardian noted, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $13.3 billion contract to help develop the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) after the company and its subcontractors "spent over $119 million on lobbying in 2019 and 2020 alone and employed a total of 410 lobbyists including many former officials."

In a February memo (pdf) on the nuclear missile project, FAS noted that "despite the growing number of concerns with the program, GBSD... accelerated under the Trump administration, in an effort to make it more difficult to reverse under a Biden administration."

"Despite substantial reductions in the ICBM force over the past two decades, there has not been a serious consideration of what role these 20th century weapons are supposed to play in a 21st century deterrence environment," the group said last month. "It is still early enough in the program to change course."

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The new FAS report will come as President Joe Biden faces pressure from progressive lawmakers to pause the new ICBM program. As The Guardian noted, the "Biden administration is preparing its first defense budget which may reveal its intentions towards the GBSD, which is in its early stages."

In a letter to the president last week, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argued that "at an acquisition cost of over $100 billion and an estimated total life-cycle cost of $260 billion, a new ICBM system would divert limited resources from higher priority needs." Last July, Khanna tried to pass an amendment that would have moved $1 billion in funding from the GBSD to a pandemic preparedness fund, but his effort was quashed in a bipartisan vote by the House Armed Services Committee.

"The United States does not need to be modernizing the ICBMs," Khanna said at the time. "If there is an accidental launch of an ICBM, you can't take it back. On the other hand, you can call a submarine back, you can call an aerial bomber back."

In their letter last Wednesday, Khanna and Markey argued that "as the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in a conflict, the United States must play a leading role in ensuring that the most destructive weapon ever created is never used again."

Kevin Martin, president of advocacy group Peace Action, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams last month that "there are myriad reasons" to oppose the GBSD, including "the exorbitant price tag, opportunity cost of investing our tax dollars in missiles and warheads instead of human and environmental well-being, and its contribution to a new arms race that threatens global peace and security."

"Let's choose humanity, other species who have no say over nuclear policy, and the Earth, over omnicide," Martin added.

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