The Challenge: Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Ro Khanna
Hon. Edward J. Markey / US Senate
WASHINGTON (March 25, 2021) — The United States should devote resources to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine to save lives before investing in a new, lethal, and unneeded intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).
· The GBSD program is likely to cost much more than publicly projected. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined in a July 2020 report that unless the entire nuclear modernization program is scaled back, the program will exceed the $1.2 trillion cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ($1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation).
· Experts doubt the need for an ICBM replacement. In 2017, CBO estimated that the current Minuteman III could be safely maintained and updated for $37 billion less than the GBSD program is slated to cost just to develop and deploy.
· COVID-19 has killed more than 2 million people worldwide and 500,000 Americans. Variant strains of the virus have emerged, threatening the effectiveness of current vaccines. After battling three novel deadly coronaviruses in the past two decades — SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2 — we should redirect taxpayer dollars to develop a Vaccine of Mass Prevention before we spend that money on a new land-based Weapon of Mass Destruction.
· First, the ICBM Act calls for a life extension of the Minuteman III and for the redirection of the unobligated balances of appropriations at the Department of Defense for the research, development, testing, and evaluation of the GBSD program to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to conduct or support research for the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine.
· Second, the bill calls for the transfer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research and combat emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases of all unobligated balances of appropriations made available for the National Nuclear Security Administration for the W87-1 warhead modification program.
· Third, the bill prohibits funds authorized for fiscal year 2022 from being obligated or expended for the GBSD program or the W87-1 warhead modification program.
· Finally, the bill calls for an independent study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences on practical options to prolong the life of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile to 2050, including consideration of force structure changes and non- destructive testing of missiles.
Former Secretary of Defense (1994-1997), Bill Perry; The Ploughshares Fund; Union of Concerned Scientists; Arms Control Association; Council for a Livable World; Peace Action; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Win Without War; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Center for International Policy; Beyond the Bomb; and Global Zero (as of 3/23/2021)
A model of the B61-12 Nuclear Bomb
Information on the FY 2021 Budget Request and Affordability of Nuclear Modernization Activities
(July 30, 2020) — The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is in the middle of a long-term effort to modernize the US nuclear weapons stockpile.
DOE’s 2021 budget estimate for nuclear modernization activities for FYs 2021-2025 is $81 billion — $15 billion more than its 2020 budget estimate for the same period.
Such an increase may require cuts in other national defense programs to keep the defense budget within spending limits.
What GAO Found
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is in the midst of a long-term effort to modernize the US nuclear weapon stockpile and its supporting production infrastructure. NNSA’s modernization plans and budgets are communicated to Congress on an annual basis primarily through two key documents — the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP) and DOE’s budget justification — together referred to as NNSA’s nuclear security budget materials. GAO reviewed four areas related to the affordability of NNSA’s modernization activities as described in these budget materials:
Funding for nuclear modernization activities. Congress funds NNSA’s nuclear modernization activities through the Weapons Activities appropriation account, which falls under the National Defense budget function along with other NNSA, DOE, and Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations related to the common defense and security of the United States.
Discretionary defense spending for fiscal year 2021 may not exceed a certain statutory limit, or else a sequestration — a cancellation of budgetary resources — would be triggered. Therefore, a proposed increase for a given program under the National Defense budget function may need to be offset by reductions in other defense programs to keep the defense budget within statutory spending limits.
Comparison of modernization activities in budget materials for fiscal year 2021 and earlier. The proposed funding in DOE’s fiscal year 2021 budget justification for NNSA’s nuclear modernization activities for fiscal years 2021 through 2025 is about $81 billion, which is about $15 billion more (or about 23 percent greater) compared to NNSA’s estimate for the same period in its fiscal year 2020 budget materials.
The main factor contributing to this large increase in proposed funding for fiscal year 2021 was NNSA’s reevaluation of the funding needed to meet existing requirements, rather than costs associated with new requirements outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.
Affordability discussion in the Fiscal Year 2020 SSMP. The Fiscal Year 2020 SSMP included a new section entitled, “Affordability Analysis.” NNSA added this section in response to GAO’s April 2017 recommendation that the agency include an assessment of its portfolio of modernization programs in future versions of the SSMP.
The recommendation addressed a shortfall between NNSA’s projected budget needs to meet program requirements and projections of the President’s budget, a condition that could recur in the future. GAO found that NNSA’s new section on affordability does not fully respond to its recommendation because the section does not provide information about how potential misalignment between NNSA’s estimates of future modernization funding needs and projections of the President’s modernization budgets may be addressed, or about the potential impacts of adjusting program schedules or cost or schedule overruns.
Implications of potential New START expiration for modernization activities. New START is a treaty between the United States and Russia for the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, and it will expire in February 2021 unless both parties agree to extend it for no more than 5 years. DOD is basing its plans on the assumption that New START will be extended, and it currently has no plans to change its force structure.
NNSA similarly has not considered the implications of the potential expiration of New START on the assumptions underlying its overall program of record and future-years funding projections as described in the fiscal year 2021 budget justification.
Why GAO Did This Study
GAO was asked to review issues related to the affordability of NNSA’s modernization activities as reflected in its nuclear security budget materials. DOE’s fiscal year 2021 budget justification for NNSA includes a proposed $3.1 billion increase for nuclear modernization activities.
The budget justification states that it supports the modernization efforts and the scientific tools necessary to execute the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. Nuclear posture reviews are issued periodically to assess the global threat environment and establish policy on US nuclear forces.
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