One of the things that we all seem to share living in Maine is a sensibility about spending money.  But when it comes to the nuclear arms budget, this is farthest from the truth. With over 4,000 warheads in the US stockpile, including 1,400 that are currently deployed, we have more than enough to keep us safe.  Building additional nuclear weapons is simply a waste of money. 

There is an old saying – “If you buy what you don’t need, you steal from yourself” and in this case, also from tax payers.  We should only spend what we need to maintain a strong enough nuclear arsenal to maintain a credible threat to deter attacks.   

A recently released poll from ReThink Media found that Democrats (87 percent) and Republicans (60 percent) believe that we should only spend what we need to maintain a strong enough nuclear arsenal to maintain a credible threat and deter attacks and with threats today of cyberattacks and terrorism, this money could be better allocated. 

The costs to taxpayers are staggering. The US currently spends over $4 million every hour of every day on US nuclear weapons, and the planned expenditure of more than $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years to rebuild and operate the arsenal will exacerbate nuclear dangers by fueling a global arms race and diverting crucial resources needed to assure the well-being of Maine people. 

In 2017, Maine taxpayers averaged $192.33 per capita, with the state collectively paying an estimated $257 million and Brunswick paying over $4 million in 2017 federal taxes toward the cost of producing, deploying, and maintaining nuclear weapons.  With the threats we face today of cyberattacks and terrorism, a large portion of this money could be much better allocated. 

Maine voices can and should play a key role in the decisions made by policy makers about how our money is spent and how best to protect citizens. Right now, the Maine Legislature and our Congressional delegation have several opportunities to help reduce the immediate threats and costs to Maine citizens posed by nuclear weapons. 

LR 887, the “Joint Resolution Memorializing the President of the United States and the United States Congress to Lead a Global Effort to Prevent Nuclear War,” is currently before the Maine Legislature. It calls on the US government to: renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first; end the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack; take US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; cancel the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons; and actively pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. 

Historically, both U.S. political parties’ presidents have worked to reduce the number of nuclear weapons (with Republican presidents reducing the most) and today there are several bills in Congress that encompass the policy prescriptions in LR 887 that will reduce nuclear weapons threats and costs. 

Treaties are important diplomatic tools and disputes about enforcement of treaty provisions need to be address through negotiation. However, the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty only serves to increase nuclear risks. Two bills in Congress would directly strengthen the INF Treaty’s intended purpose of eliminating intermediate and shortrange nuclear missiles. 

HR 1249, the “INF Treaty Compliance Act” introduced in the House in January, would help to circumvent the damage done by withdrawal from the INF Treaty. The Senate version, S 312, the “Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019”, is also aimed at stopping expenditures for the nuclear weapons at the heart of the INF Treaty. 

“No first use” legislation (HR 921 & S 272) is similar in function to US policy for no first use of biological and chemical weapons.  It means that the US would not launch nuclear weapons unless we are under attack by nuclear weapons. And because we only need nuclear weapons for defense, we would need less of them, saving us money that could be better used for other important needs. 

Both parties should put political partisanship behind them as they have in the past and work together to reduce the threat that nuclear weapons pose to all Americans. These national bills, buoyed by LR 887 in the Maine Legislature, are critical to bringing Maine and the US closer to what we all want – a more secure place to live and raise children. 

We urge Maine Legislators to support LR 887 and Sens. King and Collins and Reps. Pingree and Golden to support these important federal bills to reduce wasteful and unnecessary costs to Maine taxpayers and promote a world safer from nuclear weapons. 

David Batuski is a professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Maine, and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Andrew Cadot is a Portland lawyer, and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine Chapter. 

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