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Budget Deal Doesn't Cut Enough from Defense: Joseph Cirincione

Daily Ticker

If all goes according to the plan conceived by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the co-chairs of the bipartisan budget conference committee, Congress will approve their budget deal and the government won't shut down again like it did for 16 days in October.

The budget deal restores much of the planned spending cuts, known as sequestration, leaving the military budget largely intact. Defense spending would total $520.5 billion this fiscal year--or 52% of the discretionary budget--while domestic programs would get $491.8 billion.

Related: Want to Cut Government Waste? Find the $8.5 Trillion the Pentagon Can't Account For

Defense contractors and many members of Congress are relieved that a deal was reached, says Joseph Cirincione, author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late. He would rather have seen bigger cuts in defense spending especially for nuclear arms.

"I agree with what Chuck Hagel said before he became defense secretary, which is that there's plenty of room to cut," says Cirincione. "We've doubled the defense budget since 9/11 and a lot of that was to fight wars that we're now ending. There's plenty of room to shrink the military without cutting away any of the muscle."

Related: Another Government Shutdown in Sight? DC Experts Weigh In

Insiders One area that should shrink, says Cirincione: nuclear arms.

"We're spending $55 billion a year on nuclear weapons and related programs...but the really bad news is that that number is about to explode," Cirincione tells The Daily Ticker.

He explains that the U.S. will be deciding over the over the next two or three years whether to replace its existing nuclear triad of missiles, bombers and submarines, which is estimated to cost $1 trillion over the next 40 years.

"We have a redundant obsolete arsenal of nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War," says Cirincione, who's also president of the Ploughshares Fund which funds projects dedicated to creating a nuclear-free world. "Even if we don't agree to eliminate nuclear weapons, it's hard to imagine why we need 50 of them or 500 of them. We have 5,000 in our arsenal.....Why do we need so many around still around
particularly for the cost that they're incurring for the military, for the economy."

As for the spread of nuclear weapons, Cirincione is hopeful about the interim agreement that the U.S. and other world powers reached with Iran last month to freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some of the U.S. economic sanctions. While some members of Congress either want to maintain the current sanctions or add to them, Cirincione says it's best to keep to the agreement that relaxes them. "The sanctions have served their purpose ... and  brought Iran to the [negotiating] table.....so you don't want to put new sanctions on that could kill the deal."

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