Norton Files Nuclear Disarmament Bill as First Action to Stop Spread of Nuclear Materials Begins
March 29, 2007
Washington, DC-As Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) reintroduced the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act of 2007 (NDECA) today, she welcomed the expected decision this week by the world's only disarmament forum to start talks on banning production of nuclear bomb-making material. Norton has introduced this bill every year, after working with peace activists in the District of Columbia, who initiated a successful ballot initiative supported by D.C. voters in 1993. Norton said that the action by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva is a welcome sign that nations understand the need to act on new and dangerous forms of nuclear proliferation. The actions at the Conference reinforce the underlying premise of her bill that the strong actions toward nuclear disarmament must resume so that the United States and other nations can focus on domestic needs.
NDECA would require the United States to disable and dismantle its nuclear weapons when all other nations possessing nuclear weapons enact laws to do the same. The bill provides that when our nuclear weapons are dismantled, the resources used to support nuclear weapon programs would be diverted for growing human and infrastructure needs, such as housing, health care, Social Security and the environment.
A member of the Homeland Security Committee, Norton is concerned that nuclear proliferation and available nuclear fissile material are more dangerous in the post 9/11 era than when she first introduced this bill. She said that as countries such as Iran, North Korea, China, Pakistan and India have acquired nuclear weapons, "it is more urgent than ever to begin damping down nuclear capability here and around the world."
Norton said that among the nation's most urgent domestic priorities were 45 million people still without health insurance, an economy burdened with a dangerous deficit, millions of Americans pushed back into poverty since 2000, and a long list of other urgent domestic needs put on the back burner following the invasion of Iraq and large tax cuts for wealthy people and corporations. Norton said, "Considering that the United States is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons in war and still possesses the largest arsenal, this country has an obligation to begin the arduous process of leading the world in the transfer of nuclear weapons funds to urgent domestic needs." "Fortunately," the Congresswoman said, "House Democrats are beginning to fill some of the large gaps in domestic spending. Today the House passed a budget to reverse six years of harmful cuts, beginning with adjusting priorities, expanding and improving health care and education for our children, investing in the workforce, our military and veterans, and growing the economy." In the absence of years of presidential leadership, she said, there must be a fast forward approach in Congress to address the needs of the average American, while protecting them from nuclear proliferation.
The full text of Norton statement of introduction follows.
I am again introducing the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act (NDECA), as I have done since 1994, after working with the residents who were responsible for a ballot initiative passed by D.C. voters in 1993. NDECA will require the United States to disable and dismantle its nuclear weapons when all other nations possessing nuclear weapons enact laws to do the same. NDECA further provides that when U.S. nuclear weapons are dismantled, the resources for supporting nuclear weapon programs would be used for our growing human and infrastructure needs, such as housing, health care, Social Security and the environment.
Tragically, instead of nuclear disarmament, nations around the world have increased in efforts to seek or acquire nuclear capability. Last week, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1737 (2006) under Article 41 of the Charter's Chapter VIII, imposing sanctions on Iran for failure to halt uranium enrichment and mandating that Iran cease all sensitive nuclear activities. China's acquisition of nuclear weapons particularly underscores the dangerous spread of these weapons as a potent destabilizing force in world affairs. North Korea, at least in part in response to early aggressive talk by this administration responded in a dangerously paranoid fashion by announcing that it is expanding its nuclear capabilities, and today few doubt that North Korea has acquired a nuclear device. The North Korean threat has become so serious that the Administration recently reversed course and agreed to freeze North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil. India and Pakistan have moved back from the precipice of several years ago but each remains poised with nuclear weapons.
The invasion of Iraq and the resistance of the Administration to end the war have cost the United States much of its leadership on the nuclear proliferation and other urgent international issues. This country would be non-credible in dissuading other nations who aspire to become or remain nuclear powers if we ourselves took greater initiative in dismantling our own nuclear weapons program. We moved in the right direction when the Senate ratified the Moscow Treaty in 2003, which provides that by 2012 both the U.S. and Russia will reduce their long-range warheads two-thirds from approximately 6,000 warheads each to 2,200. However, the Administration has failed to build on this effort. According to a recent study, "Securing The Bomb: An Agenda for Action" (May, 2004; prepared by the Belfer Center, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government): "Total nuclear-threat-reduction spending remains less than one quarter of one percent of the U.S. military budget. Indeed, on average, the Bush administration requests for nuclear-threat-reduction spending over FY 2002 - 2005 have been less, in real terms, than the last Clinton administration request, made long before the 9/11 attacks ever occurred." Instead, the Administration has moved to increase the country's nuclear capacity.
However, the problem today even more complicated than nuclear disarmament by nation states. The greatest threat today is from inadequately defended and guarded sites in many countries where there is enough material to make nuclear weapons and many opportunities for terrorists or nations without weapons to secure nuclear materials. Astonishingly, because of the absence of presidential leadership, less nuclear material was seized in the two years following the 9/11 attacks than in the two years immediately preceding the attacks ("Securing The Bomb: An Agenda for Action", May 2004).
In my work on the Homeland Security Committee, I know that threats from nuclear proliferation and available nuclear material are more dangerous in the post 9/11 era than in 1994, when I first introduced the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act. It is more urgent than ever to begin closing down nuclear capability here and around the world.
Today our country has 45 million people still without health insurance, a long list of other urgent domestic needs put on the back burner following the invasion of Iraq and large tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations, an economy burdened with a dangerous deficit, and millions of Americans pushed back into poverty during the last four years. As the only nation that has used nuclear weapons in war and still possesses the largest arsenal, the U.S. has an obligation to begin the arduous process of leading the world in the transfer of nuclear weapons funds to urgent domestic needs.