February 2016 – DEFENSE NEWS – The United States launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a week last night from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch was meant to show the rest of the world that the United States maintains a strong nuclear arsenal capable of reaching anywhere in the world. It could be argued that nuclear weapons are far too expensive but a necessary evil given the nuclear weapons held by countries all over the world. The unarmed raced from its silo in California last night reaching speeds up to 15,000 miles per hour before striking its target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work was in attendance for the launch last night and made it clear that the launch was designed to serve notice to rivals like China, Russia, and North Korea that the United States nuclear arsenal is fully-functional. The United States has launched no less than 15 ICBMs over the last five years. “That’s exactly why we do this,” Work told reporters before the launch. “We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable. And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”
Following a number of scandals that called into question U.S. nuclear weapon readiness, the Defense Department spent millions improving conditions for the soldiers and others responsible for staffing and maintaining nuclear weapons. This comes at the same time that President Obama’s defense budget called for a $1.8 billion raise to the amount of money that is already earmarked to upgrade and replace aging missiles, bombers, submarines and other nuclear platforms. With the hike, Obama is seeking $19 billion in total for nuclear upgrades in 2017. Over the next decade, the United States is expected to spend $320 billion on its nuclear arsenal in the coming decade and up to a trillion dollars over the next 30 years.
There is some irony to this given that it was Obama that called for a world free of nuclear weapons and signed a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, these actions were part and parcel of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. “He was going to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security policy … but in fact in the last few years he has emphasized new spending,” said John Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World speaking to the irony. The Pentagon doesn’t like to give up weapons or the money required to build and maintain them, but critics (rightfully?) argue that there is no need to build a new nuclear force that allows for up to 1,550 warheads under the START treaty.
It’s tough not to side with the critics here as that seems a lot like overkill as we couldn’t possibly expect to ever need that many. Speaking to the plans to upgrade and replace aging systems at this scale was, once again, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. “If it becomes clear that it’s too expensive, then it’s going to be up to our national leaders to debate” the issue, Work said. United States spending is out of control and when a new president is in office next year, they may take aim at this massive program. –Value Walk