Are nuclear weapons expensive? Should they be exempt from sequestration? According to the Pentagon, the answers to these questions are “No” and “Yes”.
Over on the mothership, I have a new piece addressing the folly of exempting nuclear weapons from sequestration. It is the continuation of a conversation that began in the online pages of Defense One.
Here’s how I begin:
While there is widespread agreement that sequestration is not a wise way to manage reductions in military spending, it is the law of the land. Unless Congress changes the legislation, the Pentagon will be forced to find $500 billion in spending reductions over the next decade beyond what is has already planned.
Given this austere budget scenario, the Pentagon should be prioritizing military programs that are the most critical to combatting the current threats we face, since every dollar spent on lower priority programs is a dollar than can’t be spent on more important needs.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, however, the Pentagon is doing exactly the opposite – to the detriment of American national and fiscal security. Our military leadership has recently stated that nuclear weapons are off limits to budget cuts – even though they have already determined that the United States can reduce the number of strategic warheads it deploys by up to one third below the New START levels. Meanwhile, top Pentagon priorities such as troop training and readiness and conventional air and sea power projection capabilities are being put under the sequester knife.
The Pentagon’s case for protecting nuclear weapons is that they are cheap and that there are few savings to be found within the nuclear enterprise. But the reality is that nuclear weapons aren’t cheap. And while the Department of Defense’s budget dilemma cannot be solved on the back of nuclear weapons, there are significant savings to be found by trimming the arsenal and scaling back planned modernization programs.
Read the whole thing here.
I should add that while the Pentagon has decided to exempt nuclear weapons from sequestration, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is not exempt – though its request for weapons activities continue to rise at a meteoric rate. All the more reason, then, to prioritize NNSA’s most important activities, such as nuclear and radiological material security programs, over less pressing and more dubious needs, such as the proposed B61 life extension program.