In late March 2021, US Senator Edward Markey, Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), and Ro Khanna, Member of the US House Armed Services Committee, introduced the Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICBM) Act. The ICBM Act would stop the further development of the Pentagon’s new $93-96 billion ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and direct those savings towards development of a universal coronavirus vaccine, and towards the battle against other types of biothreats.

“The United States should invest in a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction,” said Senator Markey.The ICBM Act makes clear that we can begin to phase out the Cold War nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies, and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers posed by coronaviruses and other emerging and infectious diseases. The devastation sown by COVID-19 would pale in comparison to that of even a limited nuclear war. The ICBM Act signals that we intend to make the world safe from nuclear weapons and prioritize spending that saves lives, rather than ends them.”

“With all of the global challenges we face, the last thing we should be doing is giving billions to defense contractors to build missiles we don’t need to keep as a strong nuclear deterrence,” said Representative Ro Khanna. “The GBSD program is unneeded and projected to cost $100 billion, there is simply no logical reason to allow the program to move forward.”

Since introducing the ICBM Act, the legislation has attracted support from a number of congressional members and many arms control and disarmament organisations.

Senators Chris Van Hollen, Bernie Sanders, and Jeff Merkley have joined as co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate (S.982 – ICBM Act). Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Steve Cohen, Jesus García, Raúl M. Grijalva, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ilhan Omar, Mark Pocan and Ayanna Pressley have joined as co-sponsors of the bill in the House of Representatives (H.R.2227 – ICBM Act).

The ICBM Act has been welcomed by Bill Perry, Former US Secretary of Defense (1994-1997), as well as the Ploughshares Fund; Union of Concerned Scientists; Arms Control Association; Council for a Livable World; Peace Action; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Win Without War; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Center for International Policy; Beyond the Bomb; and Global Zero.

“Whatever you think ails this nation, a new generation of nuclear missiles is not the answer. The good news is that the country can save money and become more secure at the same time. Congress can and should redirect this nuclear funding to address more pressing needs like the pandemic.”
Bill Perry, former Secretary of Defense.

For more information about the ICBM Act, and quotes supporting Act, please see Senator Markey, Rep. Khanna Introduce the “Investing in Vaccines Before Missiles (ICBM) Act”.


Strong vested interests in ICBMs

Despite the common sense of the ICBM Act, it faces strong resistance in the Senate and House due to vested interests of some congressional members and the lobbying might of the nuclear weapons industry.

Congressional members who benefit from the ICBM program include those from the States where ICBMs are deployed (Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming) and from States where the nuclear weapons industry has research, development and production facilities for nuclear weapons including ICBMs (California, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, New Mexico, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas). There is even an ICBM Caucus in the Senate established to promote spending on new ICBMs (See Meet the Senate nuke caucus, busting the budget and making the world less safe).

The nuclear weapons corporations, who are litterally making a killing from the exorbitant nuclear weapons budget, have enough funds to employ tens, if not hundreds, of lobbyists to advocate for ICBM and other nuclear weapons budgets, and to run (or threaten to run) public campaigns against re-election of those congress members who do not support these budgets.

For these reasons, the ICBM Act will not gain sufficient support to be adopted without a strong civil society campaign in support. Beyond the Bomb and Peace Action have initiated such campaigns.


Beyond the Bomb: Invest in Cures Before Missiles

Beyond the Bomb has initiated an Invest in Cures Before Missiles campaign to build grassroots support and congressional co-sponsorship of the ICBM Act.

“COVID-19 has killed more than 2 million people worldwide and 500,000 Americans. Variant strains of the virus have emerged, threatening the effectiveness of current vaccines. After battling three novel deadly coronaviruses in the past two decades — SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2 — we should redirect taxpayer dollars to develop a Vaccine of Mass Prevention before we spend that money on a new, unneeded Weapon of Mass Destruction.”
Beyond the Bomb, Invest in Cures Before Missiles campaign

Peace Action: Stop the Nuclear Weapons Money Pit Missile

Peace Action has initiated a Stop the Nuclear Weapons Money Pit Missile campaign to build support for the ICBM Act introduced by Senator Markey and Representative Khanna.

“The U.S. is in the early stages of developing a new nuclear weapons system, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) dubbed the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent or GBSD but more accurately described as the Money Pit Missile. Its initial price tag is $100 billion, with a lifetime cost of well over twice that. Northrop Grumman serves as the main contractor, with many subcontractors involved as usual in large military projects.”
Peace Action, Stop the Nuclear Weapons Money Pit campaign