I was stunned to read in a recent article that Los Alamos National Lab would receive a jump of more than $1 billion in its proposed budget and that spending in the Land of Enchantment in the Department of Energy’s fiscal 2023 would outpace the budget of the entire state of New Mexico. Will make over almost a billion dollars — $9.4 billion versus $8.5 billion. More than 70% of this will be for programs that seek to preserve existing nuclear weapons indefinitely and create new plutonium “pit” bomb cores for newly designed nuclear weapons. In addition, the majority of the remaining funds support those nuclear weapons programs, such as $450 million for a waste segregation pilot plant, dumps for future radioactive waste from expanded pit production.
My Archdiocese is named Santa Fe for the “holy faith” of St. Francis, the patron saint of the environment and a tireless promoter of peace. Pope Francis took his papal name from that revered saint and explicitly called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Yet ironically, two of the country’s three nuclear weapons laboratories – Los Alamos and Sandia – are located within the archdiocese. That’s why 40% of the DOE’s $16.5 billion national nuclear weapons budget will be spent in New Mexico alone, twice as much as any other state. In addition, New Mexico has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the United States, with 2,500 being held in reserve at Kirtland AFB, south of the Albuquerque sunport.
The New Mexico congressional delegation has historically supported the nuclear weapons industry in the name of jobs, jobs, jobs. It needs to be critically examined and questioned, both morally and practically. Why is it that New Mexico consistently ranks at the bottom of all 50 states in key socio-economic indicators? Does the nuclear weapons industry really benefit the New Mexican people as a whole? The facts indicate that no.
For example, during the nearly 80 years the nuclear weapons industry has been in a land of fascination, Census Bureau data shows New Mexico slipped from 37th in 1959 to 49th in 2019 in per capita income. Last year US News and World Report gave New Mexico a best state-to-live-in ranking, ranking third from the bottom and last in education. According to the NM Human Services Department, we have the highest percentage of senior citizens living in poverty and the second highest rate of overall poverty, suicide and food insecurity among children. The Land of Enchantment was recently ranked 49th among all states in overall child welfare. Not coincidentally, 63% of New Mexico’s population are people of color who disproportionately tolerate the negative effects of poverty.
Let’s try to imagine what $9.4 billion a year could do for New Mexico: Hire hundreds of new teachers, help us save from growing wildfire threats, secure precious water resources, protect the poor. Provide medical care for and clean up contamination from previous nuclear weapons production. , Instead, it is forever going to nuclear weapons, even though the potential for potential nuclear war is increasing and we already have global overkill at times.
The Vatican itself has evolved from conditionally accepting nuclear weapons as necessary for “deterrence” to now declaring their possession as immoral. That’s because nuclear weapons kill everyone indiscriminately, and nuclear powers have made zero progress toward disarmament, which they promised to follow in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty. In fact, they are going backwards with Russia’s current nuclear saber-rattle and America’s $1.7 trillion nuclear weapons “modernization” program. But in reality, no country ever had just “detention”. Instead, they spent huge sums of money on nuclear war fighting capabilities, which is why we only have thousands of nuclear warheads instead of the few hundred needed for deterrence.
Given today’s growing threats, I quote President Reagan, “A nuclear war cannot and should never be fought. The only value of having nuclear weapons in both of our countries is to ensure that they never But then, wouldn’t it be better to eliminate them completely?” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara said of the Cuban Missile Crisis, “Rationality will not save us. … It was fate that prevented nuclear war.”
Let’s not rely on our luck – let’s eliminate nuclear weapons as both President Reagan and Pope Francis have directed us. In return, New Mexicans should direct their congressional representatives to lead them toward that Promised Land, while encouraging life-affirming jobs instead.