By DANA LIEBELSON
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveiled his plan to achieve $487 billion in budget cuts over the next ten years, he hinted that a smart strategy would mean cutting the number of nuclear weapons. Today, POGO sent him a very timely letter: the U.S. should cease funding the B61 nuclear bombs stationed in Europe, or pass the costs on to the countries where they’re stationed. This would save taxpayers more than $2 billion dollars.
The U.S. has approximately 200 B61 nuclear bombs deployed and stored in Turkey, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) defense. They were stationed there during the Cold War as a bastion against the Soviet Union. If the U.S. decides to go through with extending the life of these bombs, the projected cost is about $2.1 billion—a number that recently jumped from $1.6 billion, according to sources.
Serious questions have been raised about the military efficacy of the European B61 bombs. At present, the distances to potential targets outside NATO-friendly countries are such that in-flight refueling would be required multiple times. There is concern that current and proposed dual-capability aircrafts would run out of gas before they even reach their targets—not to mention, they couldn’t make it home. In short, we would be funding kamikaze missions.