Women Legislators' Lobby

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald: My Turn: Inefficient defense spending hurts New Hampshire

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (NH)

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (NH)

As Congress begins considering President Obama’s final budget request, it’s a good time to take stock of where our hard-earned tax dollars are going. As a state representative, I am concerned that some urgent funding needs in New Hampshire – such as drug treatment, education, our aging roads and bridges, and community development – are being squeezed out by wasteful spending at the Pentagon.

New Hampshire currently relies on federal funds for about 30 percent of its revenue. Yet, this flow of federal dollars to the state is constantly under siege because more than half of the nation’s discretionary budget goes to the Pentagon. While I strongly believe in the responsibility to provide for a robust national defense, there are far too many examples of inefficient spending eating up our tax dollars.

One area that deserves particular scrutiny is the planned full-scale update of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, expected to cost taxpayers $1 trillion over the next three decades. The so-called nuclear “modernization” programs include new fleets of nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and ground-based ballistic missiles, a new air-launched cruise missile, and new bells and whistles for the associated nuclear warheads.

The president and his military advisers have stated that we can reduce the deployed arsenal by one-third while maintaining stability with other nuclear powers. Yet, the current plans lock in a nuclear force structure that looks the same as it did 25 years ago and a spending trajectory that some experts are calling a budget train wreck. For instance, in 2029, the Pentagon will be spending $34 billion on nuclear force modernization alone, or “about as much . . . as the total budget of the U.S. Department of Justice,” according to the Center for American Progress.

Indeed, the Defense Department and supporters in Congress are beginning to justify the nuclear build-up with Cold War-like rationales, calling investments a counter to Russian aggression. Such thinking is backward, dangerous and provocative. Nuclear weapons did not stop Russia from invading Crimea or intervening in Syria.
Wasteful spending on dangerous weapons takes away from the safety and welfare of Granite Staters where they need it the most. Over the last several years, New Hampshire has seen a sharp increase in heroin overdoses and many families have been affected by the devastating epidemic of drug abuse. In addition, in public education, taxpayers have been picking up the slack where the current funding formula does not cover schools that are growing. Our state’s businesses and manufacturers also suffer when Congress cannot nail down long-term highway and transit appropriations. It will take purposeful resource mobilization to provide drug addicts with effective rehabilitation, students with a first-class education and commuters with highly efficient transit systems.

Budget decisions are hard to make. Yet, today, unchecked public spending largely benefits the military-industrial complex without tackling 21st-century security threats and needs. New Hampshire’s hard-earned tax dollars ought to be put toward the things that really keep us safe and secure.

President Obama entered office calling for the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” but given the current political atmosphere, we cannot assume the next president will be quite as visionary. It is time for all of us, at the local, state and federal level, to speak out against excessive, wasteful and counterproductive nuclear weapons spending.

(Rep. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua represents Hillsborough District 30 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, where she serves on the Committees on Finance and Rules. She is a member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for new Directions.)

Originally published in print on March 15, 2016 by the Concord Monitor.

 

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