When Nuclear Spending Comes at the Expense of the Troops

Supporting the troops is an important value for many Americans. Unfortunately, both soldiers and veterans often get short shrift when it comes to actually allocating budgets.

Yesterday’s House Armed Services Committee debate over this year’s defense spending bill provides a case in point. As reported by Congressional Quarterly (paywall):

“In working on the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill, House Armed Services Republicans have added billions of dollars in the coming years for facilities and capabilities that the military says it does not need, effectively flaunting a deficit reduction law many of them supported.”

In an unprecedented move, the Committee proposes to pit funds for a wasteful nuclear weapons facility against funds for veterans.

The bill aims to pay for a plutonium facility (often called the CMRR) at Los Alamos that has already been labeled as unaffordable and unnecessary – with both appropriations committees agreeing with the President’s budget request to zero out the program for at least five years.On a motion from Representative Turner, however, the House Armed Services Committee is seeking to fund the plutonium plant by drawing funding from the Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs account. This move would put the cash-hungry nuclear weapons facility in competition with cash-strapped programs for veterans and construction projects for military bases.

This “nukes vs. troops” provision is sure to face opposition on the House floor. The Democratic Senate will likely not include it in its defense bill – endangering the final passage of the measure during the reconciliation phase this fall.

Whether or not this unconventional provision actually becomes law, it is a clear statement that some members of Congress are willing to throw the troops under the bus to ensure that their pet pork projects go forward.

Many people believe that our country has a responsibility to the young men and women who serve in uniform, risking their lives to fulfill missions that Congress and the President deem are essential to our national security. But, as this most recent debate demonstrates, that support doesn't always translate into policy.

So we’re glad to see one of our board members, actor and producer Michael Douglas, taking part in a bipartisan campaign to help those who have served in the military. The national effort, branded “Got your Six,” is linking studios, guilds and celebrities with dozens of non-profits to help veterans find jobs, increase educational opportunities, secure housing for those who are homeless, strengthen the role of military families and turn out volunteers in communities nationwide.

It’s a needed effort to put action behind the talk about supporting the troops. We hope that Members of Congress take note.

Photo by Carlee Ross