Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
STATEMENT OF ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON
ON THE INTRODUCTION OF THE
NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT AND ECONOMIC CONVERSION ACT OF 2001
July 16, 2001
I have introduced the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act every year since 1993, and I will continue to introduce this bill until the threat posed by the world's nuclear arsenals is eliminated. This issue was brought to my attention by constituents who have been vigilant to the continuing need to focus on nuclear proliferation. Moreover, today missile defense is being pressed by the Bush Administration, which has refused to acknowledge urgent domestic needs from health care to affordable housing.
Long after the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the threat of nuclear weapons remains. Today, the United States continues to hold approximately 7,295 operational nuclear warheads while Russia controls 6,094, and the other declared nuclear powers of Great Britain, France, and China are estimated to possess approximately 10,000 operational warheads. Furthermore, proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in countries in unstable regions, is now one of the leading military threats to the national security of the United States, its allies, and the world.
The United States, as the sole remaining superpower and the leading nuclear power in the world, has an obligation to move first and take bold steps to encourage other nuclear powers to eliminate their arsenals and to prevent the proliferation of these weapons. That is why I have chosen today, the 56th anniversary of the first test of a nuclear explosive in Alamogordo, New Mexico, to reintroduce the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 2001. The bill would require the United States to disable and dismantle its nuclear weapons and to refrain from replacing them with weapons of mass destruction once foreign countries possessing nuclear weapons enact and execute similar requirements.
My bill has an important complementary provision that the resources used to sustain our nuclear weapons program be used to address human and infrastructure needs such as housing, health care, education, agriculture, and the environment. By eliminating our nuclear weapons arsenal, the United States can realize an additional "peace dividend" from which critical domestic initiatives can be funded, including new programs proposed in the Administration's FY 2002 budget.
Many courageous leaders in the United States and around the world have spoken out about the obsolescence of nuclear weapons and the need for their elimination. These leaders include retired Air Force General Lee Butler and more than 60 other retired generals and admirals from 17 nations, who, on December 5, 1996, issued a statement that "the continuing existence of nuclear weapons in the armories of nuclear powers, and the ever-present threat of acquisition of these weapons by others, constitute a peril to global peace and security and to the safety and survival of the people we are dedicated to protect" and that the "creation of a nuclear-weapons-free world [is] necessary [and] possible."
The United States and the world community must redouble their efforts to obtain commitments from the nations developing nuclear technology to refrain from actual deployment of nuclear weapons, as well as to help contain other countries that aspire to become nuclear powers, such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, from moving forward with their programs. The United States will be far more credible and persuasive in these efforts if we are willing to take the initiative in dismantling our own nuclear weapons program and helping arms industries to convert plants and employees to providing products and services that enhance the wealth and quality of life of citizens. I ask my colleagues to cosponsor the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 2001 and the committees with jurisdiction over the bill to mark it up quickly so that it can be considered and passed.