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Deep budget cuts would raise the risk of a nuke attack, thoughts?

Last April, President Obama hosted an unprecedented Washington gathering of representatives from 47 nations, to discuss what he described as "the single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term"--the prospect of a terrorist group acquiring a nuclear weapon.

But less than a year later, proposed budget cuts could badly hamper America's ability to counter that threat. Nuclear-security experts are expressing alarm about the potential impact of steep cuts to the country's nuclear nonproliferation program--as well as intense frustration at what they see as the White House's failure so far to push back against the cuts. Critics say rolling back nonproliferation funding could undermine a cornerstone of Obama's foreign-policy agenda.

The budget passed last week by the House of Representatives cut total funding (pdf) for nuclear security programs by more than $600 million. Before any cuts are enacted, of course, the Senate and the Obama administration will weigh in. But specialists in nuclear security are blunt about how the House cuts would weaken this critical initiative.

"These cuts make it easier and more likely that a terrorist is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, and attack the United States," Jim Walsh, a nuclear proliferation expert at MIT's Security Studies Program, told The Lookout. The human and economic cost of such an attack, Walsh added, would be "off the charts." Experts say that if terrorists detonated a nuclear device in a high-density area like Times Square, the attack could ultimately kill hundreds of thousands of people and do tens of billions of dollars worth of damage.

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Asked by sweet-a-kins at 11:10 AM on Feb. 25, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

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