CBO: US nuclear arsenal to cost $634B over 10 years

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States in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will meet for the first time June 21-23, 2022, in Vienna.

Updating and maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next 10 years is projected to cost $634 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a report published Monday.

The cost estimate for the nuclear forces from 2021-2030 represents a 28 percent increase compared to the last CBO 10-year cost estimate two years ago.

About half of the $140 billion increase comes from the fact that the new estimate now includes 2029 and 2030 when nuclear modernization is expected to be further along and “more expensive,” CBO said.

Of the CBO’s $634 billion estimates, about $551 billion is what would be needed to fulfill the Defense and Energy departments’ current nuclear plans. The remaining $83 billion is what CBO projects could be cost overruns based on how much costs have grown for similar programs in the past, according to the report.

Of the $551 billion, about $188 billion is projected to go toward modernizing nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, the report said.

The United States is in the midst of plans to modernize all three legs of the nuclear triad that the Government Accountability Office has projected could cost $1.7 trillion over 30 years. The triad refers to delivering nuclear weapons by sea, air and land.

“Over the coming years, the Congress will need to make decisions about what nuclear forces the United States should field in the future and thus about the extent to which the nation will continue to modernize its nuclear forces,” the CBO report said. 

The report could also inform the Biden administration’s expected review of U.S. nuclear policy and programs, with CBO noting “the Biden Administration is widely expected to undertake a nuclear posture review to determine the nuclear policies and forces it will pursue.”

The new CBO estimate is likely to fuel calls from some Democrats to curb the costly nuclear modernization plans, which were largely started during the Obama administration. In particular, some Democrats have frequently targeted plans to replace aging intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), arguing it would be more cost-efficient to extend the life of the current arsenal.

Earlier Monday, a group of Democrats in the Senate and House, led by Sen Ed Markey (Mass.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), introduced a bill to cut $73 billion from the nuclear budget.

The bill, dubbed the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, would do that by barring the development of new ICBMs, air-launched cruise missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles. It would also cap the number of Columbia-class submarines the Pentagon can buy at eight, cut the existing ICBM fleet from more than 400 to 150 and reduce deployed strategic warheads from about 1,500 to 1,000.

“President Biden can create a future safe from nuclear weapons, not for them, by stopping production of unnecessary nuclear weapons acquisition programs,” Markey said in a statement. “The United States can deter our adversaries and reassure our allies without making an insane investment in nuclear weapons overkill, including capabilities that may invite rather than prevent a nuclear exchange.”

Tags Defense spending Earl Blumenauer Ed Markey Joe Biden Nucelar arsenal nuclear costs
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