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Masks Over Missiles: New Rules for Pentagon Funding Could Mean No New ICBMs

Representative Ro Khanna (D.-CA) recently laid down some new rules for the Pentagon budget: Fund public health over weapons; freeze defense programs at current levels; resist Senate pressure to cave on House priorities; and develop a “modern, expansive definition of national security that includes the risk of pandemics and climate change.”

High on his list of possible cuts are the massive increases for new nuclear weapons proposed by President Donald Trump, including a freeze on the new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). He will also press for sound national security policies to be included in the annual Pentagon spending bill and for the House leadership to defend these priorities.

“One place we’re looking is to limit the modernization of ICBMs,” he said in an interview on the national security podcast, Press The Button. Instead, Khanna wants Congress to “put that money into coronavirus research, or vaccine research, or developing manufacturing capacity for masks. I think those types of red lines are not only possible but would be politically very popular.”

Khanna’s views carry great weight with his colleagues and within national security circles. Serving his second term in the House, he is the first vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and was co-chair for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

His opposition to the new missile comes just weeks after the U.S. Air Force announced it seeks to accelerate the missile program marked by cost overruns and a controversial bidding process that left Northrop Grumman as the sole contractor. The new missile could cost as much as $150 billion. Air Force program managers are speeding “to get things awarded on contract as quickly as possible,” noted budget expert Todd Harrison, “so that becomes harder to reverse if there’s a new administration.”

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