Rep. Markey hits GOP chairman hard as nuclear weapons flap escalates

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will hit back hard on Thursday at criticisms lobbed by a House Republican chairman over the costs of America’s nuclear arsenal.

House Armed Services Strategic subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) slammed Markey in a Wednesday letter for injecting inflated nuclear weapons cost figures into the debate about how to best cut the military’s budget. Markey will answer in a statement due out Thursday by claiming Turner's cost projections make "Enron look like mathematicians."

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Markey, using data from the Ploughshares Fund, told the now-dead supercommittee that Washington spends around $50 billion annually on its nuclear fleet. The group came up with a total cost of $700 billion over 10 years, a figure that has been picked up by other advocates of nuclear cuts.

Turner, citing Obama administration budget data, puts the cost of the nukes at $21.4 billion annually, which would roughly be $214 billion over a decade.

Proposals to shrink the American nuclear weapons arsenal show up in just about every list of arms cuts floated recently by left-leaning lawmakers and think tanks. Republican lawmakers vigorously opposes any reductions to America’s arsenal beyond those included in the most recent nuclear weapons treaty with Russia.

Turner called the Ploughshares-spawned figures, which the Obama administration has shot down, “factually incorrect,” noting they prevent “a full and honest debate.”

The GOP subcommittee chairman asked Markey to “publicly repudiate and correct the inaccurate and misleading information contained” in an Oct. 1 letter to the supercommittee.

In a statement due out Thursday and obtained by The Hill prior to its release, Markey went the other way.

“Rep. Turner’s accounting of the nuclear weapons program makes Enron look like mathematicians,” Markey says. “His calculations exclude hundreds of billions in spending over the next decade on missile defense, nuclear threat reduction and environmental remediation from previous nuclear weapons production, all of which are massive costs associated with the nuclear weapons program.

“This patently-false undercount that neglects past spending information does nothing to help tackle the kind of cuts needed to reduce our deficit,” Markey says.

The Massachusetts Democrat says Turner is avoiding “a real debate” about what weapon systems the U.S. will need in the future, and accuses him of “wasting time questioning estimates of how much the gold-plated nuclear weapons complex is costing our country.

“We can no longer afford to pour money into wasteful nuclear weapons programs that are artifacts of outdated, Cold War fears. We need to make our nuclear weapons forces the right size for our 21st century security needs,” Markey says. “America’s nuclear arsenal budget is filled with waste and can be cut significantly without harming our national security. It is time to stop funding a nuclear weapons budget that threatens to undermine our long-term economic security.

Markey suggested the debt panel find $20 billion annually in savings from nuclear arms cuts, reductions Turner sounded dire warnings about on Wednesday.

“Cutting $20 billion a year from the nuclear weapons budget, as your letter calls for, would result in the immediate and unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States,” Turner wrote.