By Ann G. Daniels
Deadline: ASAP please, we are talking about the nuclear countdown clock
Let’s assume we can’t count on the Dark Knight rising again to save us from nuclear destruction. Less dramatic, but more realistically – we have our Members of Congress. Today, we need you to tell Senator Dianne Feinstein that her vote for the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act doesn’t match her commitment to a nuclear-free world, and that you’re very worried that she voted for funding that can be used toward further development of nuclear weapons, processes and components.
Keep reading for a call script, contact info, and more background.
What you can do:
Call Senator Feinstein and say:
My name is _______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein for standing up against increasing nuclear weapons development in the past. But I’m worried about her vote for the 2020 NDAA because it mandates more spending on nuclear weapons components and delivery systems. I want Senator Feinstein to stand firm against further nuclear funding or development.
If at all possible, please call and keep calling until you get through. Phones ringing off the hook have an impact that full inboxes just can’t match. Better yet, call first and then follow up with an email!
Like all parts of the government, defense spending must be authorized by Congress each year. As the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act states, it “authorize[s] appropriations for fiscal year 2020 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.” The bill passed by both the House of Representatives (on December 12, 2019) and the Senate (on December 17) was a compromise – the original Senate bill was in nearly all cases much more generous to the Defense Department, and much less cautious about weapons expansion, monitoring and control than the House bill.
Senator Feinstein voted for the conference (compromise) bill, which among many other things:
- Mandates that he Department of Energy be able to produce 80 plutonium pits per year and fully funds the request of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for plutonium sustainment
- Provides even more funding than the Department of Defense’s request for ground based inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)
- Appropriates money for the deployment of a new low-yield warhead for submarines
- Fails to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)
Let’s focus on the first two items, the plutonium pits and the ICBMs. Put simply: a plutonium pit is the core of an implosion nuclear weapon. Nuclear pits go into warheads, which go into re-entry vehicles, which are launched by ICBMs; the re-entry vehicles deliver the weapon. So, the bill essentially funds both a key part of the weapon and its delivery mechanism.
Senator Feinstein generally has a good record on nuclear weapons, including rejecting Pentagon requests for new weapons on more than one occasion. Even during the Obama administration, she spoke out against acquiring or developing missiles that the country “doesn’t need,” and she acknowledged Congress’s role in protecting against nuclear proliferation, saying:
Unfortunately, Congress has shirked its duty to carefully evaluate the need for new nuclear weapons capable of immense destruction.
During the current administration, she’s been similarly clear:
For 71 years the United States has led the world in opposition to the use of nuclear weapons, leadership that would be called into question should the United States develop new, so-called low-yield nuclear weapons.
We wish she had listened to her own words in this case. We worry that she may be listening instead to those who are urging her in the other direction. It’s up to us: tell her you are worried that she voted for the 2020 NDAA, and you want her to stand firm against further funding or approval of nuclear development.
Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.
Graphic: Doomsday clock, positioned at 2 minutes to midnight, by Ryanicus Girraficus [public domain]