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Port Townsend Minute and Queries on Cutting Funding for Nuclear Arms Programs

To the President and Our Members of Congress:   In the face of record budget deficits and debt, and with so many urgent demands placed on that overstrained budget, we call upon you to find strategic and sensible ways to make deep cuts in Pentagon spending.  The time has come to critically evaluate each program and to immediately slash or eliminate those that have outlived their relevance, or pose more peril than potential benefit.    First among these is the nuclear weapons program.   The recently concluded New START Treaty is, as its name suggests, a fresh beginning.  But it does not go nearly far enough towards permanently eliminating these horrific weapons of mass destruction.  As the leading nuclear power, the U.S. should vigorously take the lead down the road to nuclear disarmament—actively exploring every pathway towards the vision outlined in the President’s Prague speech of April 5, 2009—and not just wait for the clock to run out on this treaty before taking the next step.   Wasteful conflicts between planning, policy, and practice must be stopped.  A case in point: Despite the New START Treaty’s terms of reducing the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half by the year 2021 (and presumably further reductions under a successor treaty), the Navy is proceeding with plans to build an enormous new explosives handling wharf adjacent to its existing one at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor on the Hood Canal to continue to serve the Trident nuclear submarine fleet and arsenal of D-5 nuclear missiles at current levels until the year 2042­.  This is at an already-budgeted cost of $750 million, an amount that is expected to rise to more than $1 billion.    This is a serious disconnect between intention and action.  While we are working to reduce and then eliminate our nuclear arsenal, we are also reaching deep to keep it running at the same old levels for another thirty years.   Scrutiny of the arguments in favor of such “earmark” projects will reveal that their support is almost universally based not in strategic military thinking, but on the economic benefits to the community—the jobs created and the inflow of cash.  In the case of the Kitsap Bangor wharf, where the great majority of the speakers at a recent public hearing spoke against the project, the only proponents were Kitsap County Commissioners who wanted the construction business and the 20 permanent jobs that would come from it.   But if job creation were recognized to be the purpose, there are much more economically productive ways to accomplish that goal than to build an enormous new facility for submarines and missiles we soon plan to retire.   We ask you to be the kind of leaders our fragile and strained world needs right now—leaders of vision who will lead us to a world beyond war, so we may focus our energies instead on the urgent crises of poverty, dwindling resources, mass extinctions, deep indebtedness, and global climate change that the Pentagon itself has recognized as serious threats to our national security, and may ultimately threaten even our very survival.   With urgent hopes for your agreement,   Port Townsend Friends Meeting Deborah Lewis, Clerk   Contact: Stephen C. Evans Clerk, Peace and Social Concerns Committee Port Townsend Friends Meeting 2145 Ivy St. Port Townsend, WA  98368
An open query letter:

In the hope that its publication on the FCWPP website will inspire other meetings to similar corporate efforts, we are submitting a minute/epistle recently adopted by the Port Townsend Friends Meeting calling upon our leaders to make deep cuts in Pentagon spending, with suggestions for specific cuts to the nuclear arms program.  

Here are the basic queries we considered in arriving at this result:  What tools do we as Friends have available to give witness to our Peace Testimony?  What can our meeting do to call our leaders to account for spiraling military spending and to press them to reverse the trend?  What specific militaryprograms or weapons systems can we identify to propose for cuts or elimination? 

There is a general sense of deep frustration in our meeting, as I’m sure there is among Quakers and like-minded folks everywhere, that even as politicians of every stripe make a great show of hand-wringing over the enormous federal budget deficit, no proposals are on the table to scale back military expenditures–even when virtually every other government program has an axe hanging overhead, if it hasn’t already fallen.  

This is despite the fact that military spending now stands at some 57 percent of federal discretionary spending (and rising), according to FCNL estimates. By contrast, Health and Human Services comes in second at six percent.

Although many of us have done quite a bit as individuals to lobby for reform, we came to realize that there was much more we could do in our corporate identity as a Quaker meeting.  We also realized we really will need to use every tool in the box if we are to have any effect against the powerful and well-lubricated military-industrial machine that continues to be very successful in pushing through multi-billion dollar proposals for weapons systems the use of which is inherently immoral, such as the Predator drones that so far have killed more than 300 innocents for each targeted victim (without ever putting an American at risk), or would involve a world-ending global cataclysm, as would be the case if we were ever to actual use, say, one Trident submarine’s cargo of nuclear missiles.


Steve Evans
Peace and Social Concerns Committee
Port Townsend Friends Meeting

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