Scientists to Biden: Cancel New Nuclear IBM System

More than 700 scientists, in an open letter to the U.S. president and Congress, call the new intercontinental-range ballistic missile system, known as Sentinel, expensive and dangerous.

Northrop Grumman and an industry partner successfully conducted Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile Shroud Fly-off Test at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake verifying the shroud did not strike enclosed payload, critical to mission success. (Northrop Grumman)

By Edward Carver
Common Dreams

More than 700 scientists have called for an end to the United States’ land-based nuclear weapons program that’s set to be replaced after a Pentagon decision to approve the program despite soaring costs. 

In an open letter to President Joe Biden and Congress, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) argued againstthe new intercontinental-range ballistic missile system, known as Sentinel.

“As scientists and engineers, we are acutely aware of the grave risk of nuclear war,” the letter began. “We are particularly concerned about the needless dangers created by the deployment of expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary land-based, intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs).” The scientists said the land-based nuclear weapons are unnecessary because:

“The United States deploys an assured ability to retaliate against a nuclear attack without land-based missiles. Roughly 1,000 nuclear warheads are deployed on U.S. submarines hidden at sea, essentially invulnerable to attack. Submarine-launched ballistic missiles are as accurate as silo-based missiles, quick to respond, and provide more destructive capability than could ever be employed effectively.

Specifically, one nuclear detonation can destroy an entire city; hundreds or thousands of detonations would cause millions of immediate deaths, the destruction of critical infrastructure, and potentially catastrophic climate impacts. The U.S. Navy deploys twelve submarines and is working to replace the entire fleet. Silo-based missiles do not provide any important additional capability.”

The Department of Defense on Monday certified the continuation of the Sentinel project, releasing the results of a review that was legally required when the cost estimate ballooned to “at least” $131 billion earlier this year, which drew the scrutiny of some Democrats in Congress, according to The Hill

The Defense review found that Sentinel was “essential to national security,” but 716 scientists, including ten Nobel laureates and 23 members of the National Academies,  disagreed with the assessment. 

“There is no sound technical or strategic rationale for spending tens of billions of dollars building new nuclear weapons,” Tara Drozdenko, director of UCS’ global security program, said in a statement

 Barish at Nobel Prize press conference in Stockholm in December 2017. (Bengt Nyman, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Barry Barish, a signatory to the letter, was also harshly critical of the Pentagon’s approach.

“It is unconscionable to continue to develop nuclear weapons, like the Sentinel program,” he said. 

The soaring costs of Sentinel, which is overseen by the defense contractor Northrup Grumman, have been the subject of media attention. The program will cost an estimated $214 million per missile, far more than originally expected, Bloomberg reported on Friday. 

However, the cost is hardly the only reason to cancel the program, UCS scientists argue. The silos that house the nuclear missiles, which are found in North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, are vulnerable to attack — in fact, they are designed to draw enemy weapons away from other U.S. targets, according to Scientific American.

Such an attack would expose huge swaths of the American population to radioactive fallout. 

Because they are a likely target, the siloed missiles are kept on “hair-trigger” alert so the U.S. president can launch them within minutes. This “increases the risk of nuclear war” that could start from false alarms, miscalculations, or misunderstandings, the UCS letter states. 

The scientists further argue that there’s no need for a land-based nuclear weapons system given the effectiveness of nuclear-armed submarines — one of the other parts of the nuclear triad, along with bomber jets. Such submarines are “hidden at sea” and “essentially invulnerable to attack,” according to the letter. Moreover, the submarine missiles are just as accurate as land-based missiles, and already have “destructive capability than could ever be employed effectively,” it states. 

The submarine system is also being overhauled, as is the “air” component of the nuclear triad. In total, the U.S. military plans to spend more than $1 trillion over 30 years on renewing the nuclear arsenal, according to the Arms Control Association. 

The U.S. leads the way in a surge of global spending on nuclear arms, according to two studies published last month, one of which found that nearly $3,000 per second was spent in 2023.

Edward Carver is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

18 comments for “Scientists to Biden: Cancel New Nuclear IBM System

  1. Don
    July 12, 2024 at 02:06

    If the USA decided to destroy 3/4 of it’s Nuclear warheads (approximately 4000 warheads ) I am sure Putin would agree to do the same instantly . Putin is not insane as most Americans believe (told) , he does not want Nuclear war , he does not want war at all as the Russian record shows in spades .

    His military spending is not much more than 10% of US and he could afford to spend much more but chooses not to ! Unlike the true warmongers , the USA who will this year spend close to $900 Billion on defense and pay $ 1Trillion dollars on their debt !

    And NO Putin does NOT want to reinstate the Soviet Empire or invade the rest of Europe , he simply does not want an aggressor on his southern border (1000 km long) just as the USA does not and would not put up with an aggressor on their border or near vicinity , remember Cuba in 1960 !

    Its laughable how many think that Russia is the threat to peace in the Eu or the world for that matter . For instance how many countries has the USA bombed since the second world war ?

    China 1945-46

    Korea 1950-53

    China 1950-53

    Guatemala 1954

    Indonesia 1958

    Cuba 1959-60

    Guatemala 1960

    Belgian Congo 1964

    Guatemala 1964

    Dominican Republic 1965-66

    Peru 1965

    Laos 1964-73

    Vietnam 1961-73

    Cambodia 1969-70

    Guatemala 1967-69

    Lebanon 1982-84

    Grenada 1983-84

    Libya 1986

    El Salvador 1981-92

    Nicaragua 1981-90

    Iran 1987-88

    Libya 1989

    Panama 1989-90

    Iraq 1991

    Kuwait 1991

    Somalia 1992-94

    Bosnia 1995

    Iran 1998

    Sudan 1998

    Afghanistan 1998

    Yugoslavia – Serbia 1999

    Afghanistan 2001

    Libya 2011

    Iraq and Syria 2014 –

    Somalia 2011 –

    Iran 2020 –
    What about Russia ? 4 , Chechen , Bosnia ,Afghanistan and Ukraine.

  2. Tony
    July 11, 2024 at 08:26

    If Ronald Reagan were still around I think he would probably be horrified that we were stupid enough not to have abolished nuclear weapons.

    So I hope that people will mobilise to try to defeat the Sentinel project.

    It is always wise, however, to have a ‘Plan B’ kept in reserve in case the main goal is not achieved.

    Here is my suggestion: Remove the nuclear warheads from the land-based ICBMs and replace them with conventional warheads. This would not save any money but it would help to make the world a safer place. Let’s face it, many of the supporters of ICBMs are not really bothered about what warheads are on them as long as they get their missiles.

    Some years ago, the Bush administration proposed deploying some Trident SLBMs with conventional warheads. This was a very dangerous idea because it would have meant ambiguity about whether such a missile carried conventional or nuclear warheads.
    But if all land-based ICBMs carried conventional warheads then I do not think there would be a problem.

    This is an idea that should certainly be explored as an option.

    • Bushrod Lake
      July 11, 2024 at 12:03

      Another suggest is to replace the damn politicians who promote this mass suicide eventuality.

  3. Patrick Powers
    July 11, 2024 at 08:18

    Biden to Scientists : How many bucks you got?

  4. Paul Citro
    July 11, 2024 at 06:59

    The military-industrial complex, which is supposed to protect us, has turned on us and is proceeding to consume us.

  5. Marie-France Germain
    July 10, 2024 at 18:36

    I did the math and if a day is 86,400 and a year (say 2023) is 31,536,000 then at $3,000 a second spent on nuclear arms, you citizens of the USA paid out $94,608,000,000 (nearly 95 BILLION) on nuclear arms alone, much less all the other military expenses including paying the soldiers which added up, apparently is the larger segment of the pie than any other departments like medical, social insurance, pensions, and all the other good stuff like your 17 snoop groups who are supposed to keep you all “safe” by spying on you and your electronic devices (all of ours as well, I’m sure! Hi guys!). Anyway, that kind of spending on military alone is incompatible with addressing the issues American people have in maintaining the lifestyle to which you now only dream of.

    Canada may be slow and unwilling to spend our 2% of our nation’s “protection money” to NATO (the USA) nor have we grown up with the constant militarization we see occurring in the USA. Every time you all have a merry little war in a foreign country, we get the displaced persons here and therefore, we have a pretty good idea of what really happens in the “defensive” NATO wars. Many civilians are killed and those who survive are now here. I made a number of friends and the stories they tell makes you realize that there is no discretion in american wars – it is definitely “kill everything that moves.”

    Canadians, for the most part, have no appetite for this or for wars with the exception of the usual suspects who are those who end up in underground militias and are really nuts about violence for some unknown character flaw they are infected with. For some reason, that segment is growing here in Canada too with groups such as Diagolon (our Con political leader, Pierre Poilievre, is buddies with these guys whom your government calls a “far-right extremist group”) a group much in the vein of the Proud Boys to which Poilievre also admires (scary that he is polling way higher than Trudeau, but it’s because that piece of work is only a knee pad for American elites and it shows in his narcissism. But that is another story entirely and we will end up with whom ever is chosen by these elite just like the rest of the vassal states.

  6. Paula
    July 10, 2024 at 11:51

    Science doesn’t always get things right, but this time they did. Who is listening? Certainly not the suicidal idiots in Washington. They are sick men and women who risk it all because if they can’t have it all, nobody else will, or can. Like a deranged and abusive husband who murders his wife so no one else can have her. When will these psychopaths wake up and understand they don’t own the world nor should they?

    • GrimFandango
      July 11, 2024 at 13:43

      “… When will these psychopaths wake up…”

      Not until they are six feet under.

    • Stephen Berk
      July 11, 2024 at 14:13

      The nuclear psychopaths have long since become the norm in Washington. The only chance we have, and it is a slim one, is to elect people like Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who is one of the most outspoken politicians against the insane nuclear missile competition. People who believe we can “win” a nuclear war and say so are clearly nuts. When Reagan and Gorbachev negotiated the INF Treaty sharply cutting the intermediate range nuclear force in the eighties, that was considered a first step towards eventual outlawing of nukes. But probably due to big profits for the nuclear arms industry, the craziness continues. And we now don’t have summit conferences. Trump tried to have them but I believe was pressured out of them by the deep state (which very much includes the nuclear arms industry). One of the people running for president, progressive or conservative, needs to come out openly and forcefully against nuclear arms. And he or she needs to submit a proposal for abolition. Also, we need to go back to negotiating with Russia and China, particularly the former. The Biden administration has done absolutely nothing to lessen the arms race, and they have promoted second cold war with Russia. I voted for Biden four years ago. But he and his administration have been wholly inadequate in diplomacy. Hence they are extremely dangerous and don’t deserve our vote of confidence.

  7. JonnyJames
    July 10, 2024 at 11:23

    Soaring costs, 214 million and up for ONE missile – what’s not to love? Cost-plus, no-bid crony contracts with triple-digit margins built-in. What people don’t seem to understand is that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. That’s the way the MICIMATT works in general, this is not a one-off or atypical – it is but one symptom of the massive institutional corruption.

    Like the response to calls for ceasing the funding and support of the Genocide of Palestine, the JB regime in effect says: “f you! Don’t like it? Whaddya gonna do? Vote republican? No matter who the BigMoneyMedia tells us to “vote” for, the Washington Consensus will prevail.

    • GrimFandango
      July 11, 2024 at 13:44

      A mere 214 million to vaporize Moscow or Beijing? What a bargain.
      ~Military-Industrial Complex

  8. Joy
    July 10, 2024 at 11:04

    Perhaps Lord Acton’s prescient remark needs updating. It may be that absolute power does corrupt absolutely, but it also makes the ones in that position believe they are invincible, i.e., drives them insane.

  9. Selina Sweet
    July 10, 2024 at 10:36

    Precisely this topic should be embedded in any and all public presidential debates. This is a “must know” for the USA citizenry and the world’s…

  10. Vera Gottlieb
    July 10, 2024 at 10:31

    Writing to Biden??? What a waste of time…this man has been ‘pro war’ ever since entering politics.

  11. July 10, 2024 at 09:48

    But the massive profits for the war profiteers is too tempting and lucrative to cancel. The lobbying in favor of continuing will be relentless and overwhelming. Unregulated capitalism thrives on war and more specifically, the threats of wider, even nuclear war. The threat alone will drive this and future administrations to continue making new nuclear weapons. The one snag I can envision is that the US sources something like 80% of uranium from… you guessed it, Russia. All that the evil mastermind Putin needs to do is turn off the uranium spigot. I assume the US is looking for other sources, and probably considering staring up the old mines out west, which of course will bring back the nuclear waste issue in the US in the coming years.

  12. susan
    July 10, 2024 at 09:20

    The Lunatics “running” this world could care less about the rest of us – they have bunkers to hide in. What they don’t seem to realize is that plutonium alone has a half-life of 26,000 years so they will be underground for their lifetimes and so will their children and their children’s children and so on. The Earth is a closed system and the nuclear fall out doesn’t just dissipate, it permeates everything including soil, water, air, and all living things, including our own bodies – come to the Nevada Test Site if you don’t believe me. The Cuban Missile Crisis was nothing compared to what is happening now!

    • Horatio
      July 10, 2024 at 12:48

      I agree with you Susan. What all this means is that the human experiment is a failure. Perhaps the Great Spirit should try again?

      • GrimFandango
        July 11, 2024 at 13:47

        The great human experiment has failed before, and will fail again.

Comments are closed.