Science Group Calls on Congress to Reject Defense Bill

Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 11, 2019

WASHINGTON (December 11, 2019)—The U.S. Senate and House may vote as soon as today on the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act—a compromise bill released Monday night.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“If it passes this annual defense bill, Congress will have failed in its fundamental duty to protect the American people. The Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act moves the world closer to nuclear war and creates a new and unneeded military bureaucracy to address alleged threats in space. On behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ more than 500,000 members and supporters, I call on every member of Congress to reject these dangerous decisions and to vote against this flawed bill.

“This bill accelerates the growing nuclear arms race with Russia. It fully funds almost every element of the Trump administration’s trillion-dollar plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with new, more deadly weapons that we do not need, and cannot afford. Most immediately, the bill will allow the Trump administration to quickly deploy the new W76-2 nuclear warhead—a lower yield weapon specifically intended to be more useable in a nuclear conflict. Weapons such as this one make nuclear war more likely and do nothing to enhance our security.

“The bill also creates a new Space Force branch in the U.S. military. This is a misguided attempt to use a military bureaucracy for a problem—keeping space safe for commercial and surveillance uses—that requires diplomatic solutions, not military measures. The United States should instead work with our allies and potential adversaries to create an international system that will benefit everyone and keep weapons out of space.

“In that context, I can highlight one bright spot regarding the Defense budget. The bill rejects the Trump administration’s efforts to start two different space-based weapons programs and eliminates a congressional requirement to develop a space-based test bed for missile defense interceptors. Those decisions deserve praise.

“In addition, the bill falls far short of addressing the threat posed by PFAS to public health and doing what it is necessary to protect military families. This is a missed opportunity to take serious steps to clean up this ubiquitous hazard.

“America needs leaders who will keep us all safe. This bill does not show that type of leadership. I urge all members of Congress to vote against this bill.”

Related statements and blog:

• Laura Grego, senior scientist with the Global Security Program at UCS, issued this statement on the Space Force decision.

• Stephen Young, senior Washington representative with the Global Security Program at UCS, issued this statement on the W76-2 nuclear warhead.

• Genna Reed, lead science and policy analyst with the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS, posted a blog on the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) decision.