Rep. Earl BlumenauerToday, the House of Representatives voted on my amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015 that would have prevented a $3.4 million down payment on a new nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) and redirect that funding towards the cleanup and removal of unexploded military ordinance that litters every state in the country.

This amendment looks modest, only redirecting $3.4 million. Allowing this seed money to go forward, however, commits us to billions down the road, without a reason or rationale for doing so.  The new ALCM does not yet have an official price tag, but estimates range from $20 to $30 billion.  A rebuilt nuclear warhead to go on it adds another $12 billion. That’s over $40 billion. Based on our past experience with runaway costs for nuclear weapons development, it is very likely that cost is going to increase over time.

We don’t need a new nuclear cruise missile, especially when our current arsenal is good through the mid-2030s. We certainly don’t need both a bomber armed with new air-dropped nuclear bombs that taxpayers just finished paying for, and a nuclear cruise missile to meet our deterrence requirements and those of our allies.

What’s worse, a mass U.S. deployment of new nuclear cruise missiles could renew an arms race we’ve already agreed to end, pushing China, Pakistan and others to seek this capability.

This $3.4 million is just the beginning.  My amendment would have stopped the momentum for this wasteful program that does nothing to keep America secure. It would have instead used that money for the accelerated cleanup of unexploded bombs on US soil, something that would actually keep our families and communities safe, while returning land to productive economic use at the same time.

My amendment to rein in spending on nuclear weapons didn’t pass, which is disappointing, but I’m not going to stop working to convince Congress and the American people that we need to get our priorities straight, make our communities safer, and stop expanding our already bloated nuclear programs.