Today we face a New Year, a new administration and a new era with the potential to begin the end of nuclear weapons. President - elect Obama has invited American's to share their vision of America and the world they want to see through his Change.gov website. At this critical time in our history with so many complex issues and priorities not being addressed, I submit this New Year's Wish. A wish for our children and their future.
President - Elect Obama, The people have spoken and have elected you to be the agent of change for our children and their future. The challenges while great are only exceeded by the opportunities. My vision is for a world without nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons present the most dire health and environmental threat to human civilization followed by the effects of global warming. With your support we have the greatest opportunity since the dawn of the "nuclear age" to eliminate nuclear weapons leaving our children's generation a better world. The idea while once thought to be fantasy is now mainstream from the "gang of four" - Nunn, Kissinger, Schultz and Perry, to the International Mayors for Peace "2020 Vision" campaign, the U.S. Council of Mayors endorsement and the recently launched Global Zero campaign where over 100 international leaders committed to begin the steps necessary to eliminate all nuclear weapons (www.Globalzero.org
). The American people have also spoken out about nuclear weapons with a 73% majority favoring their elimination. Now it is up to you to articulate and give voice to their vision while initiating the policy to realize their hope. America must lead by example and now is the time.
In their Jan. 2007 Wall Street Journal piece Schultz, Nunn et al. called on the nuclear powers, led by the United States, to publicly commit to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons to be achieved through a series of mutually verifiable steps. The steps include taking deployed nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert to avoid accidental launches; halting the production of fissile material, such as plutonium, needed to make a nuclear weapon; improving security for existing stocks of weapons and fissile materials; ratifying a ban on nuclear-weapons tests and negotiating deeper cuts in existing arsenals.
There is hope. An increasingly long list of U.S. congressional leaders and foreign policy experts have joined the 'group of four' in calling for the United States to reaffirm the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and pursue immediate steps toward that end.
Senator Obama was among the first legislators to step forward to embrace this approach. In July 2007, Obama and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) introduced "the Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act" (S. 1977), which outlines a comprehensive strategy for progress on disarmament and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
During the presidential campaign, Obama elaborated on his vision in two major policy speeches, pledging to "set a new direction in U.S. nuclear weapons policy and show the world that America believes in its existing commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons."
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The president - elect and his national security team must move quickly on the most important elements of his nuclear weapons threat reduction strategy. Concrete action in 2009 on each of the areas noted would also signal a dramatic shift in U.S. nuclear policy and help create the conditions necessary to build consensus among the 180-plus parties to the NPT.
Finally, according to Daryl Kimball of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, "in order to realize his pledge to lead a global effort to "secure all nuclear weapons material at vulnerable sites within four years," Obama should appoint a special high-level coordinator to oversee government-wide efforts. This initiative will require allocating significant additional funding — around $500 million — for programs to end the commercial use of highly enriched uranium and to accelerate and maintain nuclear material security upgrades in Russian and sites in other countries."
In order to do this the president-elect needs money. "To make the investments we need," he said last month, "we'll have to scour our federal budget, line by line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices, as well."
There is no better place to start than the nuclear weapons budget. According to the comprehensive nuclear expenditure review by Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assesments the U.S. spends $54 Billion annually on nuclear weapons and support programs! These monies could be reallocated to securing global nuclear materials and other investments in our future. Transfers to domestic programs will help jumpstart the economy allowing us to realize many of the opportunities before us.
As we start this new year we witness the possibility for real change. This opportunity is without side or party. We must encourage the new president to be resolute and to do what is both right and popular, and provide the U.S. leadership that is needed to create a world free of nuclear weapons.
This is the time to make our voices heard. All who share the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons are encouraged to let President Elect Obama know by signing on to the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World @ www.nuclearweaponsfree.org
. This coalition of more than 80 groups hopes to have up to 1 million signatures of support for the campaign on President Obama's desk on inauguration day. Their website details the verifiable and necessary steps to initiate this global effort to eliminate nuclear weapons. As candidate Obama stated July 24, 2008, "This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons." At long last, this may be the time where we realize the statement that "When the people lead, the leaders will follow".