Originally published in the Metrowest Daily News
Do residents of Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln and Concord have anything to fear from their longtime neighbor, Hanscom Air Force Base?
Without any vote on the matter, these four towns will become “ground zero” for activity essential to “modernization” campaign now being carried out by the U.S. military. Hanscom Air Force Base has been designated as the location of the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3).
Hanscom, the only active duty Air Force Base in New England, is an 846-acre base located in Bedford, Lexington, and Lincoln, bordering Concord. The NC3 program, as described by the Department of Defense, manages “a portfolio of 17 programs valued at $1.2B…that provide survivable and endurable communications for the nuclear enterprise. Additionally, the directorate is responsible for integrating over 60 individual nuclear command and control communications systems that underpin and enable nuclear deterrent operations.”
The Air Force’s new role for Hanscom is part of the military’s plan to spend $1.2 trillion on “modernizing” the nation’s nuclear weapons forces over the next 30 years. President Trump’s recently released Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) further expands this effort by pushing for development and production of “low-yield,” “tactical” nuclear weapons, which are more likely to be used, and by seeking to authorize the use of such weapons in response to conventional conflict or cyber-attacks.
Despite this risk, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Hanscom area Congressional Reps. Seth Moulton, Katherine Clark, and Niki Tsongas, have expressed support for the DoD’s decision to house the NC3 program in the heart of residential Massachusetts.
Warren welcomed Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, to Hanscom in April and lauded the Air Force’s plans to build additional structures at Hanscom at nearby Lincoln Labs (“Future of Hanscom AFB is bright, Air Force secretary says during tour,” Lowell Sun, April 5, 2018). Warren has given the NC3 program her blessing, visiting the base last February for a full tour of the facilities.
And sometime nuclear disarmament champion Markey praised the Hanscom nuclear war center: “Massachusetts is a national innovation incubator and our technological edge makes Hanscom the ideal place to establish a new nuclear command.”
These endorsements, following the pair’s votes to approve an obscene $700 billion military budget, are an affront to the constituents whose lives they are putting at risk for the sake of a few jobs and misguided “national security” spending.
As Markey himself pointed out in an interview with The Boston Globe last year: “You cannot survive a ‘winnable’ nuclear war. That is insanity. That’s part of the old nuclear war-fighting paradigm that we worked very hard to end when military strategists used to talk about the tens of millions of deaths that we could survive.” It follows that instead of building new nuclear weapons and high-tech systems to control them, the United States should sign on to the Nuclear Ban Treaty, negotiated at the UN last summer, for which the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. Nuclear weapons must never be used again.
The massive tax dollars to be poured into the “NC3” program are an early warning sign that the government is abandoning any pretense that the U.S. seeks arms control or nuclear disarmament and is rather doubling down on the development of apocalyptically destructive weapons designed for indiscriminate annihilation. Citing the nuclear threats of Russia and China, the Nuclear Posture Review exhibits the classic circular logic “nuclear weapons are necessary to prevent nuclear war”, and slates the U.S. to continue its financially irresponsible, inherently immoral, and hopelessly archaic arms race well into the 21st century.
Unfortunately, it seems that Massachusetts legislators are all too eager to lead the way down this disastrous path, presumably hoping to earn jobs for Massachusetts residents and touting Massachusetts’ high-tech companies. Such political shortsightedness would sell the skills of our scientists, engineers, and workers, who should be designing a clean renewable energy system, a 21st century transportation system, and new medical treatments, for an opportunity to help build the nuclear infrastructure that will destroy the world – and to make Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord a high priority target.
The citizens of Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord are not only being made neighbors to a launch center for nuclear weapons “modernization,” but also are falling victim to the nation’s rapid increases in military spending. The expenditure of our tax dollars on preparing for nuclear war is starving our state and our communities of federal funds we need to rebuild our infrastructure, transportation, energy infrastructure, health care, and senior care programs. And the latest tax bill only makes matters worse. Why continue to funnel money into programs that produce no returns, contribute to global instability, and heighten the chances of nuclear war? Our communities deserve better–Meals on Wheels, healthcare, and infrastructure–not a billion-dollar target on their backs.
Unitarian-Universalists, Quakers, Catholics, Buddhists and Pagans will join Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA) at “Shout Heard Round the World,” a nonviolent protest against Hanscom’s role in nuclear war plans, originally scheduled for Patriot’s Day, April 16, but now planned for Sunday, May 27. We will gather at First Parish Lexington at noon and walk 3 miles to Hanscom with signs warning of the danger. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call MAPA at 617-354-2169 for more information.