Nukes or Pandemic Research?

By John Dorschner

The battle over new nukes is heating up in Washington. As Biden’s Defense Department continues to pursue what Trump’s started, some in Congress are pushing back.

A bill has been filed to spend the money on fighting the pandemic, not new missiles. “The Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act,” is led by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif.

They want to stop the government from spending tens of billions to develop new missiles — a program oddly named Ground Based Strategic Deterrent — which are intended to replace the half-century-old Minutemen III buried in silos in the Dakotas and elsewhere.

The Congressional leaders question also the need for something called the W87–1 warhead modification program, designed to replace the W78 nukes that have been used in the Minutemen III starting more than 40 years ago.

Instead, they want $1 billion from the missile program transferred to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for research on vaccines that could protect against future pandemics. Funds from the W87–1 program would go to go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for infectious disease research, according to a story at

“The United States should invest in a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction,” Markey said in The Guardian.

McClatchy’s Washington Bureau recently posted a story that the old missiles and warheads are in such a state of disrepair that airmen sometimes repair one missile by taking parts from another.

“You can only do that so many times until the system fails,” Lt. Col. Steve Bonin, commander of the 91st Operations Support Squadron at Minot, told McClatchy.

At present, the Defense Department plans to overhaul the nuclear delivery “triad” — warheads and missiles in the Air Force’s underground silos, the airborne bombers and the Navy subs at an overall cost of somewhere between $400 billion to $1 trillion and “could even approach $2 trillion over the next 30 years,” according to and the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Why spend all that money? Well, it helps fund profits of a lot of big American corporations, says Joseph Cirincione, writing for the Quincy Institute, which gets funds from George Soros and Charles Koch foundations. The nuclear arsenal “is now a thin veneer of justification for a collection of legacy systems and new programs promoted for financial and political profit. The entire process is guided by an army of lobbyists,” Cirincione writes in an article entitled Why the US wastes billions on nuclear weapons it doesn’t need.

Almost 800 lobbyists now pressure the federal government to give more money to defense contracts, including nuclear.

They persuade Congress to fund “lucrative deals for Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and General Dynamics, the big five contractors that dominate military and nuclear policy,” writes Cirincione. “They sell nuclear weapons like Kellogg’s sells cereal. It’s not a question of whether we need the product; they just need to convince us to buy it.”

What’s more, these huge defense contracts get support from a lot of “independent” experts. Cirincione writes that in “the past five years, at least $1 billion in U.S. government and defense contractor funding went to the top fifty think tanks in America.”

A Miami journalist for a half-century dedicated to peace, equality and environmental protection. Author of Verdict on Trial, available on Amazon.