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Why Nuclear Policy Matters to Military Families

Last week marked 100 days since the current presidential administration began. Rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal was one policy that many expected to happen by this benchmark, but hasn’t happened. We thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and why it matters to military families like us. 

Why it matters now

Most of us don’t think about nuclear weapons every day (unless, like me, your partner works in this command system). And when we do, chances are we remember videos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that show the terrible impact those bombs had. It can be easy to think that nuclear weapons simply belong to our country’s historical past.

But nuclear weapons policy has huge relevance for us today as well. Modern-day nuclear weapons are hundreds of times more powerful than the historical bombs we’re most familiar with. Nobody wants to see a time when another bomb like that is dropped. We all have an interest in preventing nuclear war. 

Diplomacy wins

Secure Families Initiative was founded on the bold idea that military families are perhaps the group of Americans most directly impacted by foreign policy decisions over war and peace( besides service members themselves), and therefore that we need to have a seat at the decision-making table. Together we advocate for diplomacy-first foreign policy because that approach best prevents conflicts from ever requiring our loved ones to go into harm’s way.

One of the most important (and most precarious) diplomacy success stories is the nuclear arms negotiations that the United States and Russia (formerly the USSR) have been engaging in since the 1950s. Our two countries hold the lion’s share of the world’s nuclear weapons, and our ongoing engagement in nuclear arms talks was instrumental in preventing major wars after World War Two. 

However, tensions have been rising over the past fifteen years, and no major nuclear weapons discussion has taken place since 2010.  If we want to prevent more military engagement in Eastern Europe, one of the best arrows in our quiver would be to enter into new talks with Russia to work on further disarming our two nations. That dialogue would lay the foundation for diplomacy in other areas as well. 

Budget trade-offs

Our community already knows that supporting military families is a critical component of force readiness. Our service members are more focused on their mission when they know their families have the services they need, including childcare, safe housing, and access to support systems back at home. Thankfully, policymakers are starting to understand this as well!

Obviously, these home front services cost money. Proposed investments in DoD childcare would cost under $40 billion over the next thirty years. Currently, our nuclear weapons system is slated to cost $1.2 trillion over the same period of time. Talk about a serious chunk of the defense spending pie!

Policies that would extend the lifespan of our existing nuclear arsenal rather than replace them, in tandem with policies that would increase the diplomatic activities that would pave the way for an overall reducation, would free up massive amounts of dollars to invest in other mission-critical projects that are currently underfunded.

Military families should engage on nuclear policy

It’s easy to forget about our big our nuclear arsenal, especially since the world has only used these devastating weapons twice. But nuclear weapons policy has an outsized impact on military policy as a whole, largely unseen. It’s time for military families to learn and engage more on this issue so we can better advocate for approaches that will positively impact our communities. While these issues are complex, our voices and advocacy can make important changes in the military community and the world.

About the Author: Erin Thomas Anhalt has been a military, now retired veteran, spouse for over twenty years. She now works to make voting more accessible for military spouses and to raise awareness about military life for spouses and families.

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