From Senator Barbara Boxer:
I recently joined several of my Senate colleagues in writing to Defense Secretary Gates to express concern about the Department of Defense’s new policy on cluster bombs. Cluster bombs bundle hundreds of small explosive devices ("bomblets") into one bomb. Each bomblet is intended to explode on impact or after a time delay. However, sometimes these bomblets fail to detonate and can remain explosive hazards for decades after they are launched. When they do eventually explode, the victims are often innocent civilians.
Although the Department of Defense has stated that it recognizes the need to “minimize the potential unintended harm to civilians” posed by cluster bombs with high failure rates, its new policy would actually permit the continued use, sale and transfer of existing weapons for the next ten years.
It is believed that the United States maintains a current arsenal of about 5.5 million cluster bombs, containing more than 700 million submunitions. With failure rates of between 5 and 15 percent, the threat to civilians posed by the use, sale and transfer of these weapons over the next ten years is too great.
In our letter, we urged Secretary Gates to reconsider this misguided new policy. We also asked that he accelerate plans to replace existing stockpiles of cluster bombs with reliable munitions, enabling the United States to sign the “Convention on Cluster Munitions,” which prohibits the production, use and export of these weapons and requires signatories to eliminate their arsenals within eight years. It is time for the United States to reclaim leadership on this important issue.
I am proud to be part of the effort to eliminate cluster bombs and the hazard they pose to innocent civilians -- especially to children -- who are too often the victims of these deadly weapons.
Barbara BoxerUnited States Senator