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Resolutions & Amendments

26th International Convention - San Francisco, CA (1984)

Weapons Systems and the Arms Race

Resolution No. 14
26th International Convention
June 18-22, 1984
San Francisco, CA


For the last thirty years America's security has rested on our ability to deter attack from hostile nuclear powers. The current American nuclear arsenal is indeed an effective deterrent to a foreign nuclear first-strike, for even after such an attack the U. S. would have enough firepower to reduce any aggressor to nibble many times over. The Soviet Union could, similarly, emerge from an U. S. attack with enough missiles left to devastate America. It is precisely this reality of "mutually assured destruction" that has prevented nuclear war for the past 30 years; and


The arms race has entered a new and very dangerous phase, in which both sides are developing and deploying weapons of such accuracy that it may soon be possible for one or both to destroy the other's entire nuclear arsenal in a first strike. In a period of international tension, a side facing such a "first-strike capability" on the Part of its opponent might feel compelled to attack first, to avoid the possibility of losing its arsenal. Even in the absence of heightened tensions, either side facing a first-strike capability might be encouraged to adopt a "launch on warning" posture, making an accidental start of World War III ever more probable; and


The United States has actually deployed, is producing, or is developing a number of weapons that contribute to a first strike capability and hence threaten to destabilize the strategic balance. The most dangerous of these are the NIX and Trident missile, anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense program, and Pershing and cruise missiles deployed in Europe; and


The MX and Trident missiles are destabilizing because of their extreme accuracy. Carrying multiple warheads, they will be capable of destroying virtually the entire Soviet land-based missile force when fully deployed. Deployment of the MX in the basing mode currently planned would be particularly destabilizing, since the combination of its extreme vulnerability with its potency if launched first could encourage a preemptive strike by the Soviets in a period of international crisis; and


Satellites are essential to both sides in both monitoring the military preparations of their adversaries and controlling their own nuclear forces. The capability on the part of either side to destroy these satellites in space would further encourage preemptive strikes in times of crisis, since even if retaliatory forces remained after a first strike they would be rendered useless without satellite guidance; and


President Reagan's proposal for a so-called "Stars Wars" capability to knock-out incoming Soviets missiles in space is, according to the vast majority of scientists, unattainable at any cost that this nation's economy could afford. Moreover, while such a system appears to be defensive, the Soviets would perceive it as a means of dealing with any of their missiles remaining after a U.S. first-strike. Again, such a capability on the part of either side further encourages preemptive action. It is for this reason that both sides limited their anti-ballistic missile capabilities to one facility each in the 1972 ABM treaty. Deployment of President Reagan's "Star Wars" defense would violate this treaty; and


Deployment of Pershing and ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe puts both Soviet cities and military facilities within a few minutes of nuclear attack for the first time, encouraging a "launch-on-warning" response. Cruise missiles pose a particular problem in that their number, location and nuclear vs. non-nuclear capability are impossible to verify without on-site inspection.


That AFSCME urges Congress to eliminate any further funding for any phase of development of the NIX missile. AFSCME urges the President to seize the initiative by canceling the MX missile system and publicly challenging the Soviet Union to halt work on a comparable weapons system; and


AFSCME calls on the President to initiate serious negotiations to ban the testing and deployment of dedicated anti-satellite weapons systems. AFSCME opposes any increase in funding levels for development of anti-ballistic missile systems. Further, AFSCME calls on the President to ensure that development at current funding levels proceeds in strict accordance with the provisions of the 1972 ABM treaty.


Tom Hennessy, Director
Local 722, Council 14
St. Paul, Minnesota

Carolyn Samson, President
Norman Snyder, Secretary
AFSCME Local 707, Council 14
St. Paul, Minnesota