The United States plans to spend approximately $1 trillion on maintaining and replacing its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years, according to a report from independent think-tank the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).
“If current projections hold, the United States will spend 3 percent of its defense budget on procuring new strategic systems during these peak years [sometime after 2020]. This percentage is comparable to spending for procurement of new strategic systems in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan,” the report says.
The report claims that Obama’s administration planned to replace the current nuclear systems more rapidly, but sequestration has slowed it down.
The Congressional Budget Office announced in December that the U.S. will spend $355 billion over the next decade on nuclear weapons, which is consistent with the 30-year projection. CNS suggests that the Office of Management and Budget prepare estimates longer than 10 years.
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“The United States government does not know with any accuracy how much it spends annually on its nuclear deterrent, or how much it will cost to replace the current [nuclear] triad,” the report says.
The nuclear triad consists of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
The federal budget projection says it will invest $100-140 billion in bombers, $20-120 billion on ICBMs, and about $350 billion to fund the National Nuclear Security Administration for maintaining current and building more modern nuclear weapons.
“These estimates make no allowance for additional cost overruns or delays, although defense and energy programs routinely cost significantly more than initial estimates,” the report says.
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Things like environmental cleanup, military pensions, the dismantling of retired systems, long-term health aren’t listed within the budget.
“It is unclear how long the nation’s nuclear weapon program can defy budgetary gravity,” the report says. “The authors propose that the Office of Management and Budget oversee preparation of a year-by-year estimate of the full life cycle costs of each major strategic system currently in the arsenal, as well as those under consideration to replace current systems.”