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Time to invest in cures, not missiles

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made painfully clear, Americans are only "secure" when we can keep our citizens safe from preventable and structural violence, not just perceived foreign policy threats. That's why we are supporting the Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act of 2021, led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). This legislation, which would cancel the program to build a new type of nuke, would cost tens of billions of dollars, while failing to make us safer. In fact, experts have demonstrated that U.S. ground-based missiles are those most likely to be accidentally deployed and cause unintentional nuclear war. We're ready to redirect that money towards fighting the pandemic both at home and abroad, saving lives every step of the way.

That is why our Executive Director, Nancy Parrish, among other leaders in the field, is urging members of Congress to cosponsor the act. Read the full letter organized by Win Without War below:


Dear members of Congress,

As leaders of organizations dedicated to reducing the likelihood of nuclear war and eliminating the nuclear threat, we call on every member of Congress to cosponsor S.982 and H.R.2227, the Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act of 2021.

The ICBM Act, introduced by Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA, and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-CA, would cancel the program to build a new ICBM—known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent—and spend money instead on fighting the pandemic. The bill would also commission an independent study on refurbishing the current ICBM, the Minuteman, an option that would save tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

The GBSD would cost $264 billion over its lifetime, just part of a trillion-plus dollar program to rebuild the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal, including new submarines, bombers, and warheads.

But unlike submarines that are invulnerable at sea and bombers that can be launched and then recalled, these enormously expensive ICBMs are inherently vulnerable and cannot be recalled in the event of mistaken launch. As a result, they make a nuclear war more likely due to a mistake by an unstable president, miscalculation or false alarm. They make us less safe.

ICBMs are based in fixed silos in five states, as former secretary of defense Bill Perry recently described, and Russia knows those locations precisely. Should Russia attack the United States with nuclear weapons, the U.S. president would feel pressure to quickly launch these ICBMs before the Russian missiles arrive, otherwise most would be destroyed. But if the attack is a false alarm, a U.S. ICBM launch could start a nuclear war with the potential to end civilization as we know it.

As Secretary Perry notes, false alarms have happened multiple times, and in an era of cyberattacks on U.S. command-and-control systems, this danger has only grown. Starting a nuclear war by mistake is the greatest existential risk to the United States today, a mistake that fielding ICBMs on high alert make more likely.

Every member of Congress should see land-based nuclear missiles for what they really are: a waste of taxpayer money and a catastrophe waiting to happen. Please cosponsor the ICBM Act, S.982 and H.R.2227. Doing so will be one important step toward reducing the chance of nuclear war, while moving resources to address the real and current pandemic threat.


Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director Arms Control Association Cecili Thompson Williams, Executive Director Beyond the Bomb

William D. Hartung, Director, Arms and Security Program Center for International Policy

John Tierney, Executive Director Council for a Livable World

Andrew Albertson, Executive Director Foreign Policy for America Diane Randall, General Secretary Friends Committee on National Legislation

Derek Johnson, Chief Executive Officer Global Zero Leonard Eiger, Communications Coordinator Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action


ay Coghlan, Executive Director Nuclear Watch New Mexico

John LaForge, Co-Director Kelly Lundeen, Co-Director Nukewatch

Paul Kawika Martin, Senior Director, Policy and Political Affairs

Peace Action

Jeff Carter, Executive Director Physicians for Social Responsibility Tom Collina, Director of Policy

Ploughshares Fund

Robert K. Musil, President & CEO Rachel Carson Council

Tom Clements, Director Savannah River Site Watch

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director Tri-Valley CAREs

Stephen Young, Acting Co-Director

Global Security Program

Union of Concerned Scientists

Erica Fein, Advocacy Director Win Without War Nancy Parrish, Executive Director Women's Action for New Directions

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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