Vice President Joe Biden seemed pretty sure it would happen, and it did. During his speech today at the National Defense University, Biden told the audience "some in my party would may have problems" with the administration's decision to commit $7 billion over the next five years to upgrade the nuclear weapons complex.
Sure enough, just about half an hour after the speech, the group Peace Action patted Biden and Obama on the head for restating their rather mushy commitment to a world without nuclear weapons -- eventually -- but kicked the VP for "wrongly" stating that we need to modernize nuclear weapons facilities.
The group's policy director, Paul Martin, said the administration "would be more wisely spent on increasing the rate of dismantling the U.S. stockpile. Fewer nuclear weapons makes Americans safer and sends the right message to the rest of the world."
OK, these guys are professionally and, doubtless, personally committed to abolishing nuclear weapons, but they have been around since 1957 and they don't seem to grasp the complex and seemingly contradictory truth that the only way to get a smaller worldwide pie of nuclear weapons is for the U.S. and other major nuclear powers to know what each other are doing and for the U.S. to be able to act from a position of strength in negotiating reductions (as with the START Treaty). If the U.S. threat is not real and reliable then its ability to deter and influence is diminished. And, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates made very clear after the Air Force lost track of some nukes, the reliability of America's control of our nukes and our near-certain ability to deploy, arm and deliver those weapons plays a huge role in assuring our allies and deterring or influencing our enemies and rivals.
Biden said the administration put $624 million more in the 2011 budget than Congress approved last year and put a total of $5 billion more in the five-year budget plan. But that may not be enough. A congressional aide we spoke with in January said the two key facilities would cost roughly $3 billion each.
The focus is on two facilities, the uranium facility at Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge and one at Los Alamos. Will Biden's former colleagues support him on this or listen to the left? It will be an interesting test.