Nov 15, 2021
Dozens of organizations on Monday urged U.S. lawmakers to stop sustaining a "dangerous and outdated" nuclear bomb program and instead reallocate $98 million to life-saving global Covid-19 vaccine production efforts.
"The pandemic has made abundantly clear that our most urgent threats can not be solved by pouring more money into weapons of war," the groups, including Public Citizen and Council for a Livable World, wrote in a letter to senators.
"Vaccinating the global population is in the obvious interest of our security."
The weapon at issue in the new letter is the B83 nuclear bomb, which the groups call "a Cold War relic." The biggest nuke in the U.S. stockpile, it's capable of "immense collateral damage," the groups wrote, "as just one of these weapons yields nearly half of all the explosives used in World War II, including both atomic bombs."
The Obama-Biden administration slated the megaton-class B83 gravity bomb for retirement, with the B61-12, which has a lower explosive yield and less radioactive fallout, as a replacement. The Trump administration, however, reversed that retirement decision.
The Biden-Harris administration then went further with a proposal to massively boost funding for the B83.
"Indefinitely sustaining this weapon will only become more expensive as it continues to age," the letter states, urging Congress to "seize this opportunity to retire the weapon from the stockpile, thus freeing up valuable taxpayer dollars to meet true human needs."
In stark contrast to maintaining the weaponry, the letter says, "vaccinating the global population is in the obvious interest of our security."
The diversion of funds could also address "a global vaccine apartheid," by contributing to the World Health Organization's Covid-19 vaccine hub and efforts to ramp up production facilities in low- and middle-income countries as well as distribution efforts.
To take this "straightforward" step, the groups are calling on senators to support an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022 that was submitted this month by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Their proposal calls for "reallocation of funding for B83 gravity bomb life extension to support global vaccine production capacity."
According to a Sunday "dear colleague" letter from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate could consider the NDAA this week.
Public Citizen is also calling on its supporters to sign a petition urging senators to back the Merkley-Warren amendment and divert the $98 million slated for the B83 program to global vaccine access efforts instead.
"The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic," the group declared, "is a public health and national security threat that can't be fought with guns or tanks or nuclear weapons."
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