Each April 15, the nation funds its priorities. The budget confirmed by Congress and signed by the president tells the country and the world where our priorities lie, from health, education, social welfare to environmental safeguarding, national defense and nuclear weapons programs.
In regard to nuclear weapons programs, almost all agree that nuclear weapons are weapons that cannot and must not be used. Yet, we maintain arsenals on alert status with a potential to destroy life as we know it. The cost of all programs maintaining, delivering and defending these arsenals exceeds $52 billion annually with increased budget requests proposed by President Barack Obama for fiscal year 2011.
For our cities and counties, expenditures on nuclear weapon programs come at time of reduced revenues when critical programs are being underfunded. Expenditures range from Portland, Ore., at $96 million to Portland, Maine, at $11.3 million to Los Angeles County at $1.6 billion. These dollars could go much further in providing our future security as an investment in the health, education and safety of our citizens.
This budget outlay for nuclear programs occurs at arguably the most significant time in the nuclear age. Obama, joined by U.S. statesmen of both parties and heads of state and leaders, have voiced support for a world without nuclear weapons.
This past week we have seen the release of the Nuclear Posture Review. The NPR redefines the role of nuclear weapons in our security. This review sets the tone for the next steps in the weeks and months ahead.
Last Thursday, Obama met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to sign the START follow-up treaty. This treaty cuts the deployed strategic warheads of each side to 1,550. Most important, the U.S. and Russia, whose combined arsenals contain over 95 percent of the global nuclear stockpiles, are having serious dialogue on the future of nuclear weapons.
This week, the President convened a Washington summit of world leaders to discuss the future of nuclear weapons and the securing of global nuclear materials. This leads up to May's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference at the United Nations. These initiatives provide renewed energy and the possibility to move the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty forward. This would cease nuclear testing the world over.
As citizens, we must urge our Senators and elected officials to ratify the START treaty and support these initiatives. Our children's future and the fate of the planet depend upon it. We must not fall prey to the myths that we can continue on our current path and survive, that someone else will take care of it, or that we can't make a difference.
As we work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons, there will come a day when the budget will fund the true priorities of our communities. What are you willing to do to help make that day a reality?
-- Robert Dodge, M.D., of Ventura is a board member and Peace and Security ambassador for Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles; a board member for Beyond War and leader of the Beyond War Nuclear Weapons Abolition Team; and co-chairman of Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.