Democrats Introduce Bill To Shift $1 Billion From Missile Funding To Vaccine Development

Congressional Democrats are introducing the legislation as a means of getting more Americans vaccinated before the summer.

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Democrats have introduced legislation that would transfer $1 billion in funding from a “controversial” new intercontinental ballistic missile to instead be used to develop a universal Covid-19 vaccine. The Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act was introduced in the House and Senate this week as a means of stopping funding on the proposed new missile being referred to as the ground-based strategic deterrent. 

The missile itself is projected to cost a total of $264 billion over its entire lifespan, and a linked warhead modification program would have its spending discontinued in order to help assist with the cost. The current US intercontinental ballistic missile is known as the Minuteman III, and Democrats are proposing to expand its lifespan until 2050 in order to redirect costs to vaccine development. 

Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts is the co-author of the proposed bill who recently defended the legislation and emphasized that taking care of our struggling nation and getting its hundreds of millions of citizens vaccinated needs to take priority over a missile.

The United States should invest in a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction.”

“The ICBM Act makes clear that we can begin to phase out the cold-war nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies, and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers presented by coronaviruses and other emerging and infectious diseases,” Markey continued. 

Arms control experts in the US claim that intercontinental ballistic missiles “are inherently destabilizing and dangerous, because a president would have just a few minutes to launch them on the basis of early warning signals of an impending enemy attack, or risk losing them to a pre-emptive strike.”

Ro Khanna is a Democratic congressman from California who co-authored the bill in the House, who recently discussed that the Biden administration doesn’t even have a clear-cut plan for the missile’s future, so why are we prioritizing funding for it when Americans are continuing to struggle to receive a vaccine?

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With all of the global challenges we face, the last thing we should be doing is giving billions to defense contractors to build missiles we don’t need to keep as a strong nuclear defense.”

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According to Khanna, the new bill would transfer $1 billion in funding to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for development work on a universal Covid-19 vaccine. The bill would also “divert money from the program to modify the W87-1 nuclear warhead to fit the GBSD, and dedicate it to research and preparations to combat future bio-threats. And it would launch an independent study to explore viable technical solutions to extend the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile to 2050.”

Khanna originally tried to introduce a similar bill back in July 2020, but the House armed services committee killed it immediately. “Rarely is a congressional study controversial. This just shows how afraid Northrop Grumman is about the results of the independent study. They lobbied to kill a simple study, to see if the Minuteman III could be extended,” Khanna explained. Northrop Grumman is also the group responsible for engineering, manufacturing, and developing the missile. 

Khanna did recently express, however, that he’s more confident this time around that the legislation will make it further than it did last summer. “This will remain an uphill battle. Northrop Grumman is lobbying hard against this bill. Given we have Democratic majorities in both chambers and a Democrat in the White House, we think our chances are better, particularly by putting pressure on the administration to pause GBSD and consider extending Minuteman III.”

Jessica Sleight, the program director at Global Zero, a disarmament advocacy group, said: “The US nuclear arsenal far exceeds any plausible mission requirements put forth by the Pentagon. Even in the best of times, $264 billion for new nuclear missiles is money we can’t spare for weapons we don’t need. In the middle of a devastating pandemic, it’s irresponsible.”