A high-profile U.S. Senate critic of nuclear-weapons spending on Friday introduced a bill that would cut $100 billion over the next decade in arsenal outlays.
The Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures — or “SANE” — Act, filed by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), is co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
“America faces a real choice: spend billions on nuclear weapons we no longer need or fund programs that educate our children and help find cures to deadly diseases,” Markey said in provided comments.
Markey previously introduced the SANE Act as a House representative in 2012 and 2013. Though the bills collected a number of co-sponsors, they ultimately got nowhere in the Republican-dominated chamber. It is unclear if Markey’s legislation will receive more serious attention in the Democrat-led Senate.
The new SANE Act legislation, like previous incarnations, would reduce from 12 to eight the number of SSBN(X) ballistic-missile submarines that are to replace the retiring Ohio-class fleet. The bill also would limit to eight the number of Ohio-class submarines that can currently be fielded. These steps are forecast to produce $16 billion in savings, according to a release from Markey’s office.
The legislation would do away with any potential nuclear mission for the F-35 and postpone through 2023 development of a new long-range strike bomber resulting in an anticipated $32 billion.
Programs to modernize various nuclear warheads would be done away with under the bill, and work would be delayed on a new class of intercontinental ballistic missiles, resulting in an estimated $15 billion in taxpayer dollars.
“As we’ve seen in recent stories, the human beings who control [nuclear weapons] can be unreliable,” Blumenauer said in a statement included in the Markey release. He apparently was referring to recent scandals surrounding the Air Force’s nuclear-missile mission, which have highlighted a number of problems with professionalism and morale inside the officer corps assigned to control the ICBMs.
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"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."
President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.
In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."
President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.