20/02/2019 |

The U.S. budget on nuclear weapons keeps rising

If the U.S. carries out all of its plans for modernizing and maintaining the nuclear arsenal, it will cost $494 billion over the next decade.

The first nuclear power on Earth is planning on spending at least 494 billion US dollars in the next decade to grow and maintain its nuclear arsenal. If the recent government estimates are accurate, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated that the percentage will increase a 23% over the number released in 2017, and that figure was already representing an increase of a 15% over last year estimations.

Despite that, these figures still have to go through Congress, where partisan friction may play a key role. While new Chairman Rep. Adam Smith has made clear that he’s looking for ways to keep lowering spending, Rep. Mac Thornberry acknowledged that nuclear modernization is necessary and worth the cost, defending that position on different statements. “What I believe all the previous estimates have been is that at no point does it take more than 7 percent of the defense budget — and from my standpoint, it’s upon which most of our defense efforts are based,” Thornberry said.

However, it is still uncertain if this programs will move forward. Overall, the Pentagon and the Department of Energy are preparing to spend the following amounts:

  • 234 billion on strategic nuclear delivery systems and weapons, including submarines (an estimated 107 billion over this time period), intercontinental ballistic missiles (61 billion) and long-range bombers (49 billion, less than the full projected cost of the dual-use bomber fleet); the nuclear warheads for use from those systems; and DOE’s funding of nuclear reactors for the submarine fleet.
  • 15 billion on tactical nuclear delivery systems and weapons, including tactical aircraft for delivering weapons; management of the warheads for those tactical aircraft; and funding for the new submarine-launched cruise missile.
  • 106 billion for DOE’s nuclear weapons laboratories and production facilities, where America’s stockpile of nuclear warheads are maintained and developed. The department has a longstanding backlog on maintenance and upgrades for its locations.
  • 77 billion on nuclear command, control, commutations and early warning systems, used to coordinate any nuclear-related issues. While not as flashy as the weapons themselves, Pentagon officials over the last two years have sounded the alarm that nuclear command and control is at risk of being outdated without major investments.

The remaining 62 billion in projected costs come from “CBO’s estimate of additional costs that would be incurred over the 2019–2028 period if the costs of nuclear programs exceeded planned amounts at roughly the same rates at which costs for similar programs have grown in the past.”

When all that is factored in, CBO’s estimated annual cost rises from 33.6 billion in 2019 to about 63 billion in 2028, which means a roughly 90 percent increase over that period.

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