An arms control advocacy group has launched a media blitz targeting key Capitol Hill Republican leaders, arguing their support for spending cuts to government nuclear security programs will compromise the nation’s ability to defend itself against terrorism.
The nonprofit Council for a Livable World has begun running radio advertisements in the home districts or states of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John A. Boehner and four other top Republicans criticizing them for voting for deep cuts to the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
NNSA works to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons around the world, particularly in politically unstable regions.
The ads are narrated by retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, the senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a sister group of the Council for a Livable World. The group’s campaign also includes ads on national media Web sites.
“Speaker John Boehner is making it easier for terrorists to get nuclear weapons,” said Mr. Gard in the ad airing in the speaker’s Ohio district.
The radio spot aimed at Mr. McConnell in Kentucky calls the cuts “one of the worst decisions ever when it comes to nuclear security.”
The ads are expected to continue until about April 8, the final day of a temporary spending measure that is funding the federal government.
The current stopgap spending plan approved by Congress this month cuts the NNSA’s defense nuclear non-proliferation budget by $551 million from the $2.7 billion the Obama administration proposed in its 2011 fiscal year budget.
The president’s 2012 budget blueprint has tabbed $2.5 billion for NNSA’s defense nuclear non-proliferation programs.
Pressure to leave NNSA funding levels alone also is growing within Congress. A bipartisan group of 16 House members on Wednesday sent House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and one of the lawmakers targeted in the ad blitz, a letter seeking full funding for NNSA’s nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
But with so many other programs facing the budget axe, Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, the New Jersey Republican who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing NNSA’s budget, said at a hearing earlier this month the Obama administration’s request for an increase was not likely to be met.
“New resources will not be available unless they come from existing accounts,” he said.
NNSA, through its Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, works with a wide range of international partners, federal agencies, the U.S. national laboratories and the private sector to find and dispose of dangerous nuclear and radiological material worldwide.
NNSA programs have been credited with limiting the spread of highly enriched uranium and other weapons-grade nuclear materials from countries in the former Soviet Union, Libya and elsewhere.
Spokespersons for the six Republicans when contacted for a response to the group’s accusations either didn’t respond specifically to the issue or weren’t available for comment.