Washington - Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and 7 other senators in introducing legislation that will limit funding for a new nuclear-armed air-launched missile, also called the Long-Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO). The cruise missile would be more precise and could be launched without warning, putting pressure on other nuclear-armed states to keep their arsenals on high alert and increasing the risk of nuclear war. Cruise missiles also come in both nuclear and non-nuclear varieties, so the use of a non-nuclear missile against another nuclear-armed state could be mistaken for a nuclear strike, leading to unintended nuclear war. The missile and its refurbished warhead will reportedly cost between $20-30 billion over twenty years to build. Specifically, the legislation caps funding for the missile and its warhead at 2017 levels until the Trump administration submits a Nuclear Posture Review to Congress.
“The LRSO is a new nuclear weapon that by the Pentagon’s own admission would have a role 'beyond deterrence,' said Senator Feinstein. "Congress shouldn’t fund dangerous new nuclear weapons designed to fight unwinnable nuclear wars. Until the Pentagon understands there is no such thing as limited nuclear war, we will have a fight on our hands.”
“The United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs,” said Senator Markey. “The ignorance President Trump continues to display of nuclear arms control increases the risk of a resurgent nuclear arms race with Russia and unintended nuclear war. While nuclear weapons exist, the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons should be for deterring nuclear attacks. If the United States wants other countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals and restrain their nuclear war plans, we must take the lead. Instead of wasting billions of dollars on this dangerous new nuclear weapon that will do nothing to keep our nation safe, we should preserve America’s resources and pursue a global ban on nuclear cruise missiles.”
Other senators co-sponsoring the legislation are Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
According to reports, the LRSO will be more precise than its predecessor, making it easier to use in a military crisis. Additionally, the Pentagon has said that the missile could have utility “beyond deterrence” and that it would provide the air force with the ability to “respond proportionately to a limited nuclear attack”.
When questioned at his Senate confirmation hearing about the LRSO, Secretary of Defense Mattis emphasized the need to examine the missile’s “deterrent capability,” and in his written responses to the Senate, Secretary Mattis stated he “will carefully examine the utility and advisability of this program.”
Groups and individuals endorsing the legislation include: former Secretary of Defense William Perry, retired General James Cartwright, former commander of U.S. Strategic Command; Andrew Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs; Ellen Tauscher, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs; the Arms Control Association; Ploughshares Fund; Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL); and Council for a Livable World.
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry:
“Senator Markey's legislation wisely caps the 2017 funding on the nuclear cruise missile while it is being reconsidered by the new administration. I have opposed this new generation of nuclear cruise missiles because they have utility "beyond deterrence"--that is, they take us down the perilous path of nuclear war fighting.”
Tom Collina, Ploughshares Fund:
“The new nuclear cruise missile is expensive, redundant, and, above all, dangerous. It is a first-strike weapon that could be used to start a so-called “limited” nuclear war. In the hands of President Trump, who wants a new arms race, this weapon will increase the risk of nuclear catastrophe. Sen. Markey’s bill is an excellent step toward nuclear sanity, and away from the nuclear brink.”
Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Association:
“Before the Pentagon is allowed to move forward with the development of a fleet of 1,000 new, more capable, stealthy, longer-range air-launched nuclear cruise missiles, Congress should require a common sense re-evaluation of the program as part of the Trump administration’s planned Nuclear Posture Review. Congress should not support the LRSO program, especially if it determines that the new weapon is destabilzing and prompts dangerous contermoves by China and Russia, if contributes to a nuclear-war fighting rather than a deterrence strategy, if advanced conventionally-armed cruise missiles can hold key targets at risk, and if the new long-range strike bomber will be designed to have the ability to penetrate enemy air defenses, thereby making new long-range “stand-off” nuclear cruise missiles redundant.