By Jeff Jones And John Fleck, Journal Staff Writers
Slashing the number of nuclear warheads by 90 percent. Cutting the nuclear weapons budget by more than half. Eliminating the nation's newest warhead.
Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential campaign Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to "modernize the military" and save more than $57 billion a year in the process.
Among the collateral damage would be several projects with major ties to New Mexico. In addition to cuts in nuclear programs— the lifeblood of New Mexico's national labs— Richardson's plan would reduce the number of F-22 Raptor fighter jets the U.S. plans to buy, cancel the CV-22 Osprey and scrub the Airborne Laser Program.
The effect of the proposed cuts on New Mexico is not clear, but they would be substantial. Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, which employ 22,000 New Mexicans, get the bulk of their funding from the nuclear weapons program.
Concerning some of the cuts, campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds said, "The governor is aware this may have an impact in New Mexico. ... We're looking beyond parochial politics with an emphasis on the greater good for the country."
His plan also proposes reducing the number of warheads from 10,000 to 1,000; slowing the Army's development of unproven future combat systems; and canceling a class of submarines.
The campaign released a two-page sketch of Richardson's defense reorganization plan Wednesday, promising more details when Richardson gives a "major" policy speech on the matter next week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Reynolds said Richardson envisions using some of the estimated savings of $57.14 billion a year to beef up U.S. military special forces and intelligence agencies and re-equip National Guard troops in need of new gear due to the ongoing war in Iraq.
Reynolds said some of the savings also would go to improve health care and education at home.