By John T. Bennett - 11/22/11 08:47 PM EST
A bipartisan Washington think tank will air an ad during tonight’s GOP presidential debate that places America’s pricey nuclear arsenal in the budgetary crosshairs.
The 30-second television spot begins with the iconic footage of former President Ronald Reagan standing at the Berlin Wall. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” the GOP icon says, referring to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
It will air Tuesday evening on CNN in key battleground states and Washington, D.C., and is titled "Our Troops Deserve Better."
“The Cold War is over. Yet some in Congress want to spend over $700 billion on old, outdated nuclear programs, forcing the Pentagon to go without modern defense programs our troops need to face 21st century threats,” the announcer says. “Tell Congress it’s time we ended these pork-barrel nuclear programs. Our troops need help fighting terrorists, not Soviets.”
The issue of whether to spend billions modernizing America’s nuclear arsenal could become a major issue for Congress, and perhaps even in the presidential race, as the prospect of nearly $1 trillion in military cuts looms.
With thousands of nuclear warheads, some Democratic lawmakers and analysts say some can be taken out of the fleet to save billions of dollars. Many GOP members oppose any further nuclear weapons cuts beyond the newest nuclear arms-reduction pact with Moscow.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz recently said that his service may have to delay, due to shrinking budgets, nuclear certification work on a new bomber plane. The remarks “told everyone [nuclear weapons cuts] are now open to discussion,” said Matthew Leatherman, an analyst at the Stimson Center.