Now that budget day has come and gone, it’s time to sift through and try to digest all the numbers. Laicie got us going yesterday with her annual defense budget briefing book. Below I’ve put together a chart on the FY 2013 request for strategic nuclear replacement systems (click on the thumbnail for the full PDF). Stay tuned for more in the coming days and weeks.
On nukes there weren’t too many surprises.
The FY 2013 Pentagon budget does not make any cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal as future decisions about the size and structure of U.S. strategic forces will be determined by the administration’s ongoing secret review of nuclear deterrence requirements. The Pentagon has hinted that additional reductions are possible, but it remains to be seen how far-reaching they will be.
Though the big decisions about the future of the arsenal have yet to be made, as previously announced the Pentagon will delay the Ohio-Class ballistic missile submarine by two years, saving $4.3 billion from FY 2013 – FY 2017. The plans for a new long-range bomber are moving full steam ahead. Studies on a follow-on to the Minuteman III ICBM also appear to be progressing, as they received $11.6 million and a new line item in the budget.
On the NNSA side, the budget request provides $7.58 billion, an increase of $363 million over the FY 2012 enacted level but a reduction of $372 million below the projected level outlined in the Section 1251 report. As previously reported, the budget defers the new plutonium production facility at Los Alamos for five years, saving an estimated $1.8 billion over the next five years.
Due to the Budget Control Act, funding levels for weapons activities will not keep pace with the 1251 report. But the FY 2012 appropriation and the FY 2013 budget request provide major increases for nuclear weapons programs. By way of additional comparison, the FY 2013 request is a $710 million increase over the FY 2011 enacted level and an increase of $1.2 billion over the FY 2010 enacted level! NNSA will still be provided with more than enough money to maintain safe, secure, and effective nuclear warheads.
Of course if sequestration is implemented all bets are off and funding for nuclear modernization activities at the Pentagon and NNSA will take a big hit. As budget analyst Todd Harrison rightly observes, “The budget request and new strategic guidance are of little consequence until this uncertainty is resolved.”
Our message on all this remains the same: The U.S. should prioritize scarce dollars on the weapons we need for current threats and spend less on unaffordable nuclear programs with diminishing strategic relevance – with our without sequestration. The decision to delay the Ohio-class replacement program and defer the new plutonium facility at Los Alamos are good first steps, but there is ample room for more cuts.