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  • Nuclear Weapons Worth More Than the U.S. Is Spending

    A recent New York Times editorial is turning one of the significant nuclear weapons’ benefits for the U.S. national security on its head, charging that the nuclear weapons budget is “bloated.”

    This is simply incorrect. Nuclear forces have been very cost effective relative to conventional forces and historically have consumed less than 5 percent of the Department of Defense’s budget. After the end of the Cold War, the funding for nuclear weapons infrastructure plummeted. For instance, the U.S. has not developed a new warhead or delivery vehicle for the past two-plus decades.

    Yet nuclear weapons continue to play an invaluable role in the U.S. strategic posture. More than 30 countries all over the world rely on the U.S. nuclear security umbrella. If the credibility of the U.S. deterrent is hampered, allies will end up developing their own nuclear weapon capabilities. The paradoxical result of the “road to zero” could be more proliferation.

    The editorial proposes “scaling back unnecessary modernization programs, and delaying or scrapping plans to replace some delivery systems,” as this would “help make the world safer.” Currently, the average age of U.S. delivery platforms is 41 years for the Minuteman III, 21 years for the Trident II D-5 SLBM, 50 years for the B-52H bomber, 14 years for the B-2 bomber, and 28 years for the Ohio-class submarine.

    The U.S. produced its last nuclear warhead in 1989. This has led to anything but a safer world, as Pakistan, India, and North Korea have tested their nuclear weapons and Iran is well on its way to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

    The Obama Administration already started unilateral reductions when it negotiated the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) with the Russian Federation. Since the treaty entered into force in February, the State Department’s release has made official what the experts had been alerting the Senate to prior to the treaty’s ratification: that Russia is already below New START’s limits. Even worse, as it turns out, Russia is actually building up its forces under New START.

    While the United States is engaging in unilateral disarmament, all other nuclear weapon states are modernizing their strategic arsenals and building up their nuclear forces. U.S. nuclear weapons history demonstrates that the funds spent on nuclear weapons are a small price to pay for the nation’s ultimate “insurance policy.”

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Nuclear Weapons Worth More Than the U.S. Is Spending

    1. rrowan1 says:

      Baker and Michaela, you left out the B-1 bomber.

      • Stephen says:

        The B-1's role in the nuclear war plan ended on October 1, 1997 with the signing of Presidential Decision Directive 60 and the entry into force of SIOP-98. By 2003, all B-1s had been physically converted to conventional-only missions.

    2. Rick says:

      Didn't Ronald Reagan engage in some unilateral nuclear disarmament himself?

    3. Stephen says:

      Say what you will about current and projected spending on the US nuclear arsenal, but it is simply untrue that "Nuclear forces … historically have consumed less than 5 percent of the Department of Defense’s budget."

      In fact, no one in the government knows exactly how much has been spent or continues to be spent on nuclear weapons because there is not and has never been a unified, comprehensive budget to monitor all their costs over time. The Department of Defense did not even track nuclear weapons expenditures until 1962, and once it started, it only considered a portion of the cost of strategic forces (Major Force Program 1), excluding such critical things as overhead and support costs; most research and development costs for delivery systems and supporting equipment; tactical nuclear weapons; airlift and sealift costs for strategic and tactical nuclear weapons programs; most centralized command, control, communications and intelligence programs associated with nuclear weapons; and some training costs.

      As documented in the groundbreaking 1998 book "Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940" (http://www.brookings.edu/press/Books/1998/atomic.aspx), which is the first and so far only attempt to quantify the comprehensive historical costs of the US nuclear weapons program, nuclear weapons conservatively accounted for at least 29 percent of all military spending from 1940 through 1996, making nuclear weapons the third most expensive government program after all other (conventional) national defense and social security.

      Moreover, a follow-on study published almost three years ago, "Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs: Examining Priorities" (http://www.carnegieendowment.org/2009/01/12/nuclear%2Dsecurity%2Dspending%2Dassessing%2Dcosts%2Dexamining%2Dpriorities/8uq), found that nuclear weapons spending in fiscal 2008 consumed 7.1 percent of the Department of Defense budget and 67 percent of the Department of Energy budget.

    4. Stephen says:

      Say what you will about current and projected spending on the US nuclear arsenal, but it is simply untrue that "Nuclear forces … historically have consumed less than 5 percent of the Department of Defense’s budget."

      In fact, no one in the government knows exactly how much has been spent or continues to be spent on nuclear weapons because there is not and has never been a unified, comprehensive budget to monitor all their costs over time. The Department of Defense did not even track nuclear weapons expenditures until 1962, and once it started, it only considered a portion of the cost of strategic forces (Major Force Program 1), excluding such critical things as overhead and support costs; most research and development costs for delivery systems and supporting equipment; tactical nuclear weapons; airlift and sealift costs for strategic and tactical nuclear weapons programs; most centralized command, control, communications and intelligence programs associated with nuclear weapons; and some training costs.

      As documented in the groundbreaking 1998 book "Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940" (http://www.brookings.edu/press/Books/1998/atomic.aspx), which is the first and so far only attempt to quantify the comprehensive historical costs of the US nuclear weapons program, nuclear weapons conservatively accounted for at least 29 percent of all military spending from 1940 through 1996, making nuclear weapons the third most expensive government program after all other (conventional) national defense and social security.

      Moreover, a follow-on study published almost three years ago, "Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs: Examining Priorities" (http://www.carnegieendowment.org/2009/01/12/nuclear%2Dsecurity%2Dspending%2Dassessing%2Dcosts%2Dexamining%2Dpriorities/8uq), found that nuclear weapons spending in fiscal 2008 consumed 7.1 percent of the Department of Defense budget and 67 percent of the Department of Energy budget.

    5. Afnan Shah says:

      Baker Spring and Michaela Bendikova you forgot about Israel which has 300 warhead.

    6. Robert Hastings says:

      One well-kept secret relating to nuclear weapons involves repeated incursions by unknown aerial objects at both American and Soviet weapons sites during the Cold War era and beyond. Declassified documents from both countries confirm this strange development beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Seven U.S. Air Force veterans spoke publicly about such incidents at the National Press Club on September 27, 2010. See:
      http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/09/15/idUS166

      CNN streamed the press conference live:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jUU4Z8QdHI

      Sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction.

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