The political system in the United States needs a change of consciousness when it comes to securing America.
So far, we have lost 160,000 people in the Covid-19 pandemic. This surpasses all the combat deaths in all wars since World War II, said reports. Former Clinton Administration Secretary of Defense William Cohen, a Republican, and Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna addressed our false views on security in their story "Rethinking U.S. National Security." The story wisely questions the fact that Congress will soon vote on $740 billion in military spending without a vibrant debate on the way we are spending the money. Our biggest defense against the pandemic isn't bombs and missiles but masks and ventilators, as stated by Cohen and Khanna. In addition, our country plans on spending over $1 trillion over the next 30 years modernizing nuclear weapons. We act as if the Cold War against the Soviets never ended! Climate change's stronger hurricanes and flooding left the Air Force with $5 billion in damages to bases last year, meaning we can't afford to purchase new weapons that have nothing to do with our safety.
One example of an unnecessary weapons system is the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) missile, which the Pentagon wants to build to replace the existing Minuteman III nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It would cost $85 billion to $150 billion in a hastily expedited contract with Northrop Grumman.
Our advanced sea and air-based nuclear weapons can more than protect our nation. In contrast, ground-based ICBMs are destabilizing and increase the risk of an accidental nuclear war. The locations of our fixed-site ICBMs are known, making them sitting ducks to a Russian or Chinese attack. In the event of an attack, the president would have just minutes to decide whether to launch ICBMs before they are destroyed in their silos, greatly increasing the risk of starting a nuclear war by mistake.
The ICBM is so destabilizing that it needs to be phased out by the world's major powers. However, if we can't do that, and given the hostility to arms control by the Trump Administration we might not be able to, then it would be cheaper just to extend the service life of the Minutemen III which would cost $37 billion less. If our country were to stumble into a nuclear war, it probably wouldn't be a retaliation to a Chinese or Russian attack. It would be due to a false alarm and then a rushed decision to launch ICBM's. There were false alarms in the first Cold War.
As our country trudges into the future, we can't afford to spend billions on weapons that make us less safe. Let's redirect these tax dollars to lifting citizens into the middle class via social insurance, pandemic relief, and fighting climate change. However, this would be a problem for defense contractors like Northrop Grumman who wield an unusual amount of power in our money-drenched political system.
Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.