This week of April 15th tax day finds the country and indeed the world in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. As we fund our nations priorities each expenditure must be carefully considered for its investment in our future. We can stay the present course or make changes for a better tomorrow and a more secure future.
The greatest threat to our collective security and survival remains the use of a nuclear weapon or nuclear war. Our nuclear policy, a remnant of the cold war, and its fiscal expenditures actually add to our insecurity. The allocation of dollars to nuclear weapons programs and ultimately the cost to our society has never been transparent and must be addressed as we reexamine our priorities.
This year with the convergence of economic crisis, nuclear security threats, public sentiment and President Obama's articulation in Prague this past week of "America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the potential to fully reconsider these expenditures is possible.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January '09 report on U.S. Nuclear Security Spending confirmed spending in excess of $52 Billion for 2008 on nuclear weapons programs. These figures align with previous reports by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments placing nuclear expenditures at approximately $54 Billion. That translates to $6.7 Billion for the state of California and over $160 million for Ventura County and $1.6 Billion for neighboring L.A. County. These dollars represent opportunities lost.
When Americans are surveyed as to our economic concerns, they include the production of quality jobs, healthcare access, energy policy and environmental protection, education and security. Imagine the possibilities of redirecting these nuclear funds.
The vision of a world without nuclear weapons is no less monumental than President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon in 1961, or President Reagan's call to "tear this wall down" Berlin speech in 1987.
President Obama is ready to "put an end to Cold War thinking" and has committed the U.S. to "reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy." Eliminating nuclear weapons was once thought to be fantasy. It is now mainstream from the former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Sam Nunn, to former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry, the so called "gang of four," who have called on the U.S. to take the lead in international efforts to eliminate these weapons.
It is important to understand that no one is advocating unilateral disarmament or overnight change. No one is suggesting countries like Israel give up their weapons before anyone else or that any of this will be easy. With the U.S. and Russia holding 96% of the global nuclear weapons arsenals estimated at 5 billion tons, we must indeed initiate the process. There will always be those who will say impossible, but without the vision of these thinkers, we know what the unthinkable probabilities are.
So in this spring of 2009 we must seize the opportunity to reexamine our future. Now is the time for us to raise our voices and let our leaders know of our priorities. Let ours be an Age of Possibility.
Interested communities can calculate their cost of nuclear weapons programs by checking the Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Project at www.c-p-r.net.