New U.S. Nuke Facility Shows One Way Military Costs Get Hidden

The Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C. today released a report asking the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to kill a $6 billion nuclear weapons project in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

You can read POGO’s report online here. A couple of years ago, while living in New Mexico, I wrote a primer on this project for the Santa Fe Reporter, which remains online here.

It seems odd, doesn’t it? How did a $6 billion nuclear weapons program—a program, as POGO notes, that seems at odds with Obama’s stated nukes policy—slip by without mention during the recent debate over military spending? Aren’t nuclear weapons, after all, the constant preoccupation of all foreign and national security thought—not just within the U.S., but around the world?

In the shallowest sense, the omission is understandable, considering how amazing it is that there was such a debate at all, given the militaristic drift of the past decade.

But ultimately I believe there’s one overarching reason why you’ve probably heard little to nothing about this project: Language. Specifically, the language of obfuscation.

The nuke lab in question will be run by the Department of Energy, not the Department of Defense. This is a longstanding bureaucratic fact of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, but nonetheless similar to the shell game whereby the costs of American private security contractors in Iraq shifted to the Department of State prior the withdrawal of military ground forces.

It’s also not called a nuke lab. Instead, it’s euphemistically described as a “chemistry and metallurgy” facility—still awake?—and a “replacement” one at that. So it’s not even really new, you see!

I could be wrong, of course. It could be that Americans really do care about the development of nuclear weapons—just not their own.