Every summer, the director of the St. Louis Peace Economy Project and an intern take a letter to Congress calling for the reduction of military spending to save our domestic needs and safety-net programs. They carry the signatures of those who sign on and deliver the letter to those representatives and senators in Washington, D.C.
The letters are all personalized with the names of the members of Congress and the signers. I'm on the project's board, and I've been sending the letter out to my email list to collect signatures. Here is the body of the letter:
We are concerned that too much of the nation's resources are devoted to the military, and not enough to domestic initiatives, especially the safety net needed by those in poverty.
We are pleased that after so much national partisan debate, a compromise budget has led to the partial lifting of the sequester, raising of the debt ceiling, and protection of most of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the compromise farm bill. We are also pleased that after so many years the US appears finally to be removing most of its troops from Afghanistan this year, and that Defense Security Chuck Hagel is planning to reduce our Army size to pre-World War II levels.
Yet our concerns are many:
a) Weapons Procurement. We can't have it all. We can't replace the air craft carriers (the new Gerald Ford costs $13 billion), the submarines, and build all the additional ships that the Navy wants. Or the new $100 billion bomber fleet that the Air Force wants. Or the 2400 F-35s that are under-construction (despite an estimated $160 billion in cost overruns, remaining technical problems, and an estimated $1.5 trillion cost over the planes 40-year life span. The money challenge is further complicated when Congress precludes base closing and other savings that the Pentagon has sought.
b) Weapons Research. The array and sophistication of military research and development is also unsettling. The Navy is testing "laser and rail gun" technology; the Army is testing a "high energy laser mobile demonstrator"; The Defense Advanced Research Projects agency is exploring "pod-mounted lasers to protect airborne platforms." Lockheed Martin is said to be designing an "affordable, hypersonic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike platform" and Northrup Grumman is reported to have a new secret high altitude reconnaissance drone, the RQ-180, perhaps with attack capabilities. All these activities not only contributes to an arms race, but risk war from one or more countries concerned that they not get too far behind.
c) Missile Defense. The 2013 Defense Authorization Law required the Defense Department to identify additional missile sites on the east coast of the country. Congratulations to Vermont Senator Pat Leahy who has indicated that he does want his state to be one of the sites for the two year environmental impact studies that will preclude any final decisions. The Congressional Budget Office has said that the cost of such a facility would be around $3.5 billion. There is no consensus that anti ICBM systems work, or that the sites in California or Alaska would not be sufficient. We expect the United States to defend itself against threats, yet there are good reasons to think that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our aggressive behavior have increased, not diminished, threat from terrorism.
We need to find a way to live with Russia, China, Iran and other powerful countries around the world, and to practice the carrot of diplomacy and humanitarian assistance, rather than the familiar stick of saber rattling.
Thank you for considering these concerns. We would welcome the opportunity to share additional information with you.