Washington Post Debunks Nuclear Spending Hyperbole
5:49 PM, Nov 30, 2011 • By ROBERT ZARATE
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler debunks the false claim made by supporters of nuclear disarmament that the United States will spend $700 billion on nuclear weapons programs in the next decade.
The $700 billion figure originates from a controversial cost estimate produced in September by the Ploughshares Fund, a grant-making foundation based in San Francisco, California. The figure was prominently cited by Congressman Ed Markey (D, Mass.) and other liberal lawmakers in an October 11th letter that urged the supercommittee to spare domestic entitlement programs—and to defund the U.S. nuclear deterrent instead—as it sought to cut over $1.2. trillion in long-term federal spending. (The supercommittee failed to meet its Thanksgiving deadline, offering no recommendation of spending cuts at all.)
Most recently, the $700 billion figure was also at the center of “Our Troops Deserve Better,” a tendentious 30-second commercial by the American Security Project that aired during the November 22nd GOP presidential debate on foreign policy. Citing the hyperbolic cost estimate, the commercial suggests that spending on the U.S. nuclear deterrent is “forcing the pentagon to go without modern defense programs our troops need to face 21st century threats.”
However, as Kessler notes:
Indeed, Miller much more forcefully rejected the Ploughshares Fund’s $700 billion figure during his testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. “I've had an opportunity to look at some of the materials that were referenced in those cost estimates just before coming over here and I—without giving this more time than it deserves—suffice it to say there was double counting and some rather curious arithmetic involved,” he said on Capitol Hill.
Stephen I. Schwartz, the coauthor of the 2009 report on which the Ploughshares Fund based its cost estimate, told Kessler that he had warned the Ploughshares Fund and Congressman Markey to be careful and cautious with the $700 billion figure:
The Washington Post piece includes a quotation from Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which concedes that the methodology used by his organization’s cost estimate may lead to “some double counting.” But Cirincione is nevertheless doubling-down on his hotly disputed claim:
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