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Letter to Senate Appropriations Leaders on Nuclear Research Funding

 

July 18, 2005

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chairman
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510     

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510     

The Honorable Daniel Inouye
Ranking Member
Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senators:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I write to urge you to oppose funding for the research and development of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP) and other advanced nuclear weapons in the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Appropriations bill. As you know, the Administration's FY2006 budget request includes $4 million to revive funding for the RNEP, a nuclear weapon intended to destroy deeply buried and hardened targets such as leadership bunkers or chemical and biological weapons caches, and an additional $4.5 million for RNEP testing under the Air Force Budget. Another $14 million would be requested by the Department of Energy in FY2007.

The USCCB opposes such funding for several reasons. First, the United States faces a serious national security threat from the proliferation of nuclear weapons materials and technologies, most notably in North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. We believe that the pursuit of new nuclear weapons such as RNEP sends a dangerously mixed signal to the rest of the world and erodes our nonproliferation credibility. Nations that see the U.S. expanding and diversifying our nuclear arsenal are encouraged to seek or maintain nuclear deterrents of their own and ignore nonproliferation obligations.

Additionally, a recent report by the National Research Council, entitled the "Effects of Nuclear Earth Penetrator and Other Weapons," found that the RNEP has the potential to spread dangerously high levels of radiation above ground, and thus, pose a grave threat to human lives. The Report concluded that "the weapons cannot penetrate to depths required for total containment" and would result in "casualties" that range from "hundreds" to "more than a million" people. Given these facts, we believe that funding for the research and development of the RNEP, or any new nuclear weapons, is a dangerous and questionable use of taxpayer money.

Our nation and other nuclear powers have new opportunities to reduce and ultimately end their reliance on nuclear weapons. Even after the Moscow Treaty is fully implemented, the United States would have a nuclear arsenal that far exceeds anything necessary to deter existing or foreseeable nuclear threats. The moral task today is to proceed with deeper cuts and ultimately to ban nuclear weapons entirely, not to begin research on new ones.

Therefore, in light of the adverse impact such funding would have on our international nonproliferation efforts, and especially, the devastating toil these weapons could have on human lives, the USCCB asks that you eliminate funds for the RNEP program and for any program to study or develop new types of nuclear weapons.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy

CC: Members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations

 



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