Fact Sheet: Government, Former Government Officials Agree: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Spending Plans Costly

Nuclear weapons are very expensive

”Being a nuclear power is very expensive. And you know, at the risk of stating the obvious, this is an expensive venture. I mean, being a nuclear power is an expensive venture. We’re prioritizing as an administration the maintenance, the safety, the security of our nuclear enterprise, but it is expensive.”

-Madelyn Creedon , Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, May 9, 2013

Current plans to rebuild the nuclear triad and nuclear warheads are expensive and potentially unaffordable

“The challenge here is that we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad] and we don’t have the money to do it.”

-Gen. James Cartwright , former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 11, 2011

“We’re not going to be able to go forward with weapon systems that cost what weapon systems cost today….Case in point is [the] Long-Range Strike [bomber]. Case in point is the Trident [submarine] replacement….The list goes on.”

-Gen. Robert Kehler , former Commander of US Strategic Command, July 26, 2011

“It’s clear that we are facing a [nuclear] modernization mountain in the budget in the period of time in the next decade, in the mid part of the next decade…. And it’s going to be a major challenge.”

-John Harvey , former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, May 9, 2013

“At some point in time, that triad becomes very, very expensive, you know, obviously, the smaller your nuclear arsenal is. And it’s – so at some point in time, in the future, certainly I think a decision will have to be made in terms of whether we keep the triad or drop it down to a dyad. I didn’t see us near that in this recent – over the last couple of years, with respect to the New START. But I spent enough time to know, at some point, that is going to be the case.”

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 20, 2011

“The cost of modernizing the nuclear infrastructure is not small. So I think that will lead to a very honest debate about where can we afford to invest, where must we invest, and how does that relate to a strategy going forward for the nation?…I think the costs are going to be a factor whether we’re sequestered or not.”

-Gen. Mark A. Welsh III , Air Force Chief of Staff, November 13, 2013

“I really think [the] ‘3+2’ [nuclear warhead modernization strategy] is the right thing to do. I really do….I just don’t think it’s going to happen.”

-Parney Albright , former Director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, March 24, 2014

“He said the Pentagon faced a “bow wave” or large increase in weapons spending in the 2020s when it hopes to buy the new bomber, large numbers of new ground vehicles for the Army, and hundreds of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets. The Navy is also working on a new submarine to replace the nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines, and the Air Force needs to replace the Minuteman nuclear ballistic missiles, he said. Given those pressure to fund those new systems, he said it was critical for firms to find ways to cut costs, and to ensure that military leaders understood the true cost of new technologies. “I hope more of them will have to courage to say, ‘Look this is going to be very expensive, maybe you ought to consider (something else),'” he said.

-Robert Hale , Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), June 24, 2014

“Accordingly, the Department is committed to a recapitalization of the triad, which under current budget constraints is unaffordable, especially considering that the nuclear deterrent’s supporting infrastructure, command and control system, and other enabling capabilities also require expensive renovations.”

-National Defense Panel Review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, July 2014

“It’s [nuclear modernization] a big challenge in the ’20s in particular….When we get out to the [20]20s, a lot of things have to be paid for at the same time.”

-Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, September 17, 2014

Funding the upcoming nuclear modernization bow wave “is the biggest acquisition problem that we don’t know how to solve yet.”

-Michael McCord, Defense Department Comptroller, November 13, 2015

Increasing modernization costs are forcing and will continue to force difficult tradeoffs within the nuclear budget

“Given the fiscal realities of the Budget Control Act, NNSA studied alternatives to continue meeting the mission and determined that construction of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) Project, the B61-12 Life Extension Program (LEP), and construction of the CMRR-NF Project could not continue simultaneously.”

-Tom D’Agostino , former Administration, National Nuclear Security Administration, June 21, 2012

“It is my conviction that without financial buy-in by the NATO partners, either the F-35 nuclear integration or through fielding of an independent or equivalent European manufactured aircraft, F-35 investment dollars should realign to the long range strike bomber”

-Gen. Norton Schwartz , former Air Force Chief of Staff, January 16, 2014

“In December 2013 the office of the Secretary of Defense deferred [Long-Range Standoff Missile] program funding due to concerns over the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) funding profile for the associated warhead as well as other nuclear enterprise priority bills such as the B61 Tail Kit Assembly.”

-Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command, March 5, 2014

“The most significant adjustment to the [3+2] strategy is the decision to move the first production unit of the first interoperable warhead out 5 years to FY 2030. That decision was based on assessments of the current state of the stockpile, including…interoperable warhead cost estimates.”

Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, April 2014

“The good news is that the B61-12 LEP is on track for initial production by no later than 2020. But the program is highly resource intensive (~$8B to field a few hundred weapons) and is crowding out other important programs leading to multi-year slips in LEPs for the Long Range Standoff missile (LRSO) and the W78/88-1.”

John Harvey, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, June 14, 2014

The Obama Administration is taking a hard look at whether it needs to replace the air-launched cruise missile, outgoing Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs Andrew Weber told reporters earlier this week as he prepared to leave his position after five years. The large price tag to modernize the nation’s nuclear deterrent over the next two decades has forced the Administration to examine whether there could be “tradeoffs” in the current modernization plan, Weber said, specifically singling out the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon, which would replace the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). “The size of the bow wave causes us to have to take a hard look at the priorities,” said Weber, who left the Pentagon yesterday to serve as new Ebola Coordinator Nancy Powell’s deputy. “What are the tradeoffs? Is that current strategy affordable and executable? Or does it need to be modified?”
The Air Force has said the LRSO is imperative to replace the ALCM, but Weber noted that the bomber leg of the nuclear triad could be preserved with only the B61-12 gravity bomb, which is currently being refurbished. “That’s a decision that has to be informed by the budget realities but with the B61-12 we will have that bomber leg,” Weber said. “It’s a question: Do you need both the gravity bomb and the cruise missile or could we live with perhaps delaying or foregoing the follow-on to the ALCM. These are the kinds of questions we’re examining within all of the legs of the triad.”

Andrew C. Weber, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, Exchange Monitor Weapons Complex Morning Briefing, October 7, 2014

Increasing modernization costs are forcing and will continue to force difficult tradeoffs between nuclear and other defense programs

“If we buy the [the 12 planned Ohio replacement (SSBNX) ballistic missile submarines] within existing [Navy] funds, we will not reach 300 ships. In fact, we’ll find ourselves closer to 250. At these numbers, our global presence will be reduced such that we’ll only be able to visit some areas of the world episodically.”

-Vice Adm. William Burke , former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Warfare Systems, April 30, 2013

“[W]e actually took out more Air Force structure than we would like to protect the new long-range bomber.”

-Christine Fox , Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense, February 26, 2014

“Now, in terms of the budget, I mean there’s no question that the …the GTRI [Global Threat Reduction Initiative] program does have a reduction in….I’m disappointed that we could not do a little bit better with the budget…But it’s the question of… balancing these priorities, we felt we just had to get the [nuclear] weapons program on track.”

-Ernest Moniz , Secretary of Energy, April 2, 2014

“Recapitalization of all three legs of the nuclear Triad with associated weapons could cost between $600 billion and $1 trillion over a thirty year period, the costs of which would likely come at the expense of needed improvements in conventional forces.”

-National Defense Panel Review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, July 2014

“There’s been some conversation about that [funding Air Force and Navy nuclear programs outside the Air Force and Navy budgets]…but at the end of the day we have to find money to pay for these things one way or another, right? So changing the accounting system doesn’t really change that fundamental requirement. We still need the money and it has to come from somewhere.”

-Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, September 17, 2014

“Our nuclear deterrent force is aging. It will be modernized in the 2020s and 2030s. We need to keep the old equipment and systems going, but it is becoming more expensive for us to do so and requiring us to divert resources in that regard.”

-Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defense, February 2, 2015

“The period in which there does appear to be a potential affordability issue is FY 2021 through FY 2025 during which NNSA is simultaneously executing four to five LEPs and several major construction projects, including the Uranium Processing Facility.”

-FY 2016 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, National Nuclear Security Administration, March 2015

“We have a problem with recapitalizing the strategic deterrent….So we do have a huge affordability problem with that basket of systems. It is starting to poke itself into the [future years defense plan] — the five-year plan now. And we’re trying to address it.”

-Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, April 14, 2015

“When combined with the continuing cost to sustain the current force while we build the new one this will roughly double the share of the defense budget allocated to the nuclear mission [from about 3.4% to 7%]. This will require very hard choices and increased risk in some missions without additional funding above current defense budget levels.”

-Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defense, June 25, 2015

Budget Control Act caps for the remainder of the decade will wreak further havoc with nuclear weapons spending plans

“But the—one word of caution. We are on track today. It’s a large program [the Ohio Class replacement program]. It’s an expensive program. And….sequestration holds the potential to—to upset this timeline in a fairly dramatic way.”

-Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, April 24, 2013

“[T]he greatest risk to the B61-12 [life extension program] and frankly to the entire 3+2 strategy….is budgetary risk. And it’s the ongoing implications of sequestration.”

-Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, May 9, 2013

“Any activity in sequestration that would delay or slow down a life-extension program or that would delay or slow down activities under way to restore an infrastructure that will enable, that carries out the work on those life-extension programs would be of concern and would introduce additional risk into our assessment.”

-John Harvey, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, May 9, 2013

“If we — if more budgetary constraints are applied, we will break the three-plus-two strategy. We will break the three-plus-two strategy.”

-Bruce Held, former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, April 10, 2014