Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) today introduced legislation that would stop further development of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent -- the military's next intercontinental ballistic missile system -- and redirect savings to fight the coronavirus and other diseases.
The Investing in Cures Before Missile (ICBM) Act calls on the Defense Department to instead extend the lifespan of the legacy Minuteman III system, according to a statement Markey's office released today. It would commission a study from the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate technical solutions that would specifically extend the current system's viability to 2050, as well as force structure changes and nondestructive missile testing.
Markey and Khanna propose transferring $1 billion of unobligated GBSD funds to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to research a universal coronavirus vaccine, along with unobligated W87-1 funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research emerging infectious diseases. The National Nuclear Security Administration's W87-1 program modifies the Minuteman III missiles’ warheads.
"The United States should invest in a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction," Markey, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia subcommittee, said in today’s release. "The ICBM Act makes clear that we can begin to phase out the Cold War nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers posed by coronavirus and other emerging and infectious diseases."
Khanna, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, added: "With all of the global challenges we face, the last thing we should be doing is giving billions to defense contractors to build missiles we don’t need to keep as a strong nuclear deterrence."
He also argued extending the lifespan of the legacy Minuteman III system would be a cheaper alternative to GBSD, which is projected to have an acquisition cost of nearly $100 billion and 50-year life-cycle cost of over $260 billion.
Markey and Khanna’s bill is cosponsored by three lawmakers in the Senate and 13 House members, including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
The legislation also received endorsements from a number of prominent nuclear arms control advocates, like former Defense Secretary Bill Perry, who said in today's release: "Whatever you think ails this nation, a new generation of nuclear missiles is not the answer. . . . Congress can and should redirect this nuclear funding to address more pressing needs like the pandemic."