Earlier this week I spoke at an event at the Stimson Center highlighting the release of a new report by the Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program titled “Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons.” The report was authored by defense budget all-star Russell Rumbaugh and his very able partner in crime, Nathan Cohn.
Jeffrey Lewis has a good post on the report and the illogical conservative pushback here.
Regular readers know that we’ve closely followed the Congressional and expert debates about how much the United States spends on nuclear weapons (and related programs), which I’m not going to rehash right now.
Russ and Nate used a unique bottom-up approach to ascertain how much the government (specifically the Pentagon and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)) spends on strategic offensive forces.
Their analysis identified $31 billion in spending on nuclear weapons in FY 2011. It also provides a 10 year-estimate ranging from $350-$390 billion. Their estimate is a good deal more than the administration’s estimate, last laid out publicly in November 2011, of approximately $215 billion in planned spending on nuclear weapons sustainment and modernization between FY2011 and FY2020.
Thanks in part to the attention generated by the debate over nuclear weapons spending, both the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act include provisions calling on the Pentagon to provide a detailed assessment of the costs associated with sustaining and modernizing the US nuclear deterrent. While the provisions are not as comprehensive or specific as they could have been (for example it’s unclear whether DoD would be required to count the significant command and control costs associated with the nuclear mission, many of which lie outside Major Force Program (MFP) – 1), they’re a first step in trying to get an official government estimate of the relevant costs.