Ploughshares Fund President Warns Congress of Inflated Missile Threats, Budgets

March 6, 2008

Calls Ballistic Missile Defense “The Longest Running Scam in the History of the Department of Defense”

WASHINGTON, DC: In his first day as president of Ploughshares Fund, Joseph Cirincione warned Congress of inflated threats, inflated capabilities and inflated budgets in the $12.3 billion administration request this year for anti-ballistic missile weapons.

In testimony before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Cirincione presented a detailed analysis showing that the record-breaking budget request comes at a time of steady decline in the threat posed by ballistic missiles.

“The most serious threats are the short-range missiles confronting our armed forces and some allies, not the long-range missiles that are the focus of the bulk of the anti-ballistic missile budget,” Cirincione told the committee. “There is every reason to believe that the threat can be addressed through diplomacy and measured military preparedness.”

Committee member Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA) asked Cirincione whether the allocation of resources is proportional to the threat.

“Absolutely not. I believe that the ballistic missile defense program is the longest running scam in the history of the Department of Defense,” the Ploughshares president said. “This is an enormous waste of money, and if you leave this decision to the Joint Chiefs they won’t spend anything near what this Administration is requesting. In fact, the last time the Joint Chiefs were asked about this in 1993, [they] recommended to then-President Clinton that we spend only $3 billion a year on these kinds of programs, and of that $2.3 billion should be spent on efforts to intercept short-range missiles " the ones that are a real threat to our troops and allies….We’re no further along in our ability to actually hit a real ballistic missile now than we were 20 years ago.”

Cirincione was the lead-off witness in what Committee Chairman John Tierney said would be a comprehensive series of hearings examining the threats, technology and costs of the current programs. The Committee asked Cirincione to provide an evaluation of the threat. “I believe that in order for Congress to judge whether these sums are necessary they need a comprehensive assessment of the ballistic missile threat,” Cirincione testified, “Congress has never " never " gotten this kind of assessment…. We need a comprehensive threat assessment of what the most serious security threats are facing the United States, and then budget allocations based on that.”

Among the points Cirincione documented in his presentation:

  • Despite the sharp decline in the number of long- and medium-range ballistic missiles deployed over the last twenty years, the current administration plans to spend more than $60 billion on anti-missile weapons over the next six years " more than during any similar period during the Cold War.
  • There are fewer countries with missile programs now and the nations trying to startlong-range missile programs are poorer and less technologically advanced than were the nations 20 years ago.
  • The likelihood of any nation attacking the U.S. or Europe with a ballistic missile is exceptionally low.

Cirincione, a highly-regarded policy expert and Capitol Hill veteran, is the author of the 2007 Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons. He assumes the presidency of Ploughshares Fund after directing nonproliferation programs at the Center for American Progress for four years and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for the eight years prior to that. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and teaches at the Georgetown University Graduate School of Foreign Service.

Ploughshares Fund a public grantmaking foundation that supports efforts to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons, and to prevent conflicts that could lead to their use. Ploughshares grants support results-oriented initiatives, as well as technical and policy analyses of nuclear weapons and missile defense, including the work of Theodore Postol at MIT, Theresa Hitchens and Victoria Samson at the Center for Defense Information, and Lisbeth Gronlund and David Wright at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The complete text of Cirincione’s detailed testimony with graphs, charts and tables of all the 28 nations with missiles--can be found at, along with additional biographical information and highlights of recent Ploughshares-funded projects.