The Pentagon's Budget Busting Bombs Could Cost Taxpayers $640 Billion
November 28, 2012
Citizen's Watch / Tri-Valley CAREs & Ploughshares Fund Working Paper
The US weapons labs are intent on developing new nuclear bombs by running them through increasingly ambitious "Life Extension Programs," or LEPs. This has an incalculable proliferation cost with a quantifiable budgetary price tag. (Costs for the B61 atomic bomb are just becoming public.) Meanwhile, the Ploughshares Fund projects current plans for nuclear weapons and related programs could cost taxpayers approximately $640 billion over the next decade.
The New Budget-Busting Nuclear Bomb
Marylia Kelley / Citizen's Watch, Tri-Valley CAREs
(November 25, 2012) -- The US weapons labs are intent on developing new nuclear bombs by running them through increasingly ambitious "Life Extension Programs," or LEPs. This has an incalculable proliferation cost. In addition, there is a somewhat more quantifiable budgetary price tag. And, for the B61 LEP, that is just becoming public.
The Dept. of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) plans to life-extend two variants of the B61, stationed in Europe, using the cores from the B61-4 with "mix and match" components from three other B61 versions to create the new B61-12, which we and others have dubbed the "Frankenbomb."
In 2010, the NNSA estimated the cost at $3.9 billion. The agency then upped its estimate to $6.8 billion. Earlier this year, CA Senator Dianne Feinstein disclosed that she had been told the B61 LEP might cost as much as $8 billion. Today, we know that all of those estimates are too low.
The Dept. of Defense's assessment now comes in at around $10.4 billion for the B61 LEP. Further, the DoD projections suggest there may be a 3-year schedule slip before the first production unit is completed somewhere around 2022.
To attempt to keep the program on track toward a 2019 production date will require an additional $1 billion dollars annually over its current budget for the next several years, according the assessment.
Independent analysts point to the scope of the LEP as the reason for its exorbitant cost. First, the bomb designers are using the B61 LEP to add new military capabilities to the bomb, such as greater accuracy and longer range than the NATO variants now possess, rather than simply maintaining the present capabilities.
Further, the weaponeers may be venturing into new bomb development terrain in order to "exercise" their design muscles for the even more ambitious and far-flung set of changes they envision for the W78 LEP, which is "on deck" to follow the B61-12.
Meanwhile, NATO is grappling with inconsistencies in its current nuclear posture and, also, with the desire of key decision-makers in several member nations to see the alliance move out of the nuclear bomb-hosting business entirely. It is possible that the US could spend $10 billion or more to create a new nuclear bomb for NATO that will have no mission when it is ready for deployment.
Some independent weapons experts advocate limiting the scope of the B61 LEP, and, from a technical perspective, that makes sense. Other analysts, however, are questioning the strategic value of the B61 in Europe, and propose scrapping it completely. Peace activists and a number of elected officials in Europe are pulling for the latter course. Tri-Valley CAREs and many of our counterparts in the US agree.
What Nuclear Weapons Cost Us
Ploughshares Fund Working Paper
(September 2012) -- Ploughshares Fund projects that current plans for nuclear weapons and related programs could cost the American taxpayer approximately $640 billion over the next decade.
The United States Government is on track to spend approximately $640 billion through fiscal year (FY) 2022 on nuclear weapons and related programs.
We include in our estimate all costs associated with nuclear weapons production, operation, maintenance, clean up, and defense, as well as the prevention of nuclear proliferation.1
This is a conservative estimate. It does not include relevant costs that are difficult to calculate -- including intelligence programs, some missile defense funds, and aerial refueling costs. We do not account for programs that do not yet have official budget estimates -- such as a new ICBM.
The estimate also does not account for cost growth -- an unfortunate reality for acquisition programs. Lastly, we provide a ranged estimate. The low estimate assumes that Defense budgets grow at less than the rate of inflation in keeping with the President’s budget plans. The high estimate simply assumes Defense programs grow with inflation. $640 billion is the average of the two estimates.
Projected Total Budget for Nuclear Weapons
And Related Programs FY13-FY22 (in $ billions)
$619.56 billion $661.08 billion
Low: DoD Budget Growth Below Inflation $8.49
High: DoD Budget Growth at Inflation $62.67
Nuclear Forces (DoD + DOE)
Missile Defense Environmental and Health Costs
Nuclear Threat Reduction Nuclear Incident Management
Nuclear Forces (DoD + DOE): $351.9 to $391.8 billion
The Department of Defense does not provide a full accounting of what it spends on the nuclear arsenal. A comprehensive Stimson study estimates that DoD will spend between $268.9 and $301.7 billion to sustain, operate, and modernize the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal over the next ten years.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Department of Energy, is expected to spend between $91.8 and $99.1 billion on the strategic nuclear arsenal over the next ten years. This includes funds for weapons activities, administrative costs, and naval reactors.2
Missile Defenses: $95.9 - $97.4 billion
Most policy-makers and analysts intimately link anti-missile programs to nuclear policy. We estimate the U.S. will spend between $95.58 and $97.44 billion on these programs over the next ten years. This estimate uses the Department of Defense projection for missile defense spending from FY13- FY17.3 Costs are assumed to grow with inflation through FY22.
Environmental and Health Costs: $100.7 billion
We estimate that the U.S. will spend $100.7 billion managing and cleaning up radioactive and toxic waste resulting from nuclear weapons production and testing activities, as well as compensating victims of such contamination.†
Nuclear Threat Reduction: $62.7 billion
We estimate that the U.S. will spend $62.7 billion to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This includes funding for nonproliferation, securing and disposing of fissile materials, the Mixed Oxide Fuel facility, converting HEU-fueled reactors, and other programs.†
Nuclear Incident Management: $8.5 billion
We estimate that the U.S. will spend $8.5 billion to prepare for emergency responses for a nuclear or radiological attack against the United States.† It does not include relevant expenditures by the National Guard and federal and local agencies that would be involved in nuclear incident response.
(1) This working paper updates Ploughshares Funds earlier estimate for FY12-FY21. It includes the most recent public analysis and data from the FY13 budget request. The total estimate is lower than previously estimated, reflecting the latest research and new downward trends in government spending and inflation projections.
(2) Russell Rumbaugh and Nathan Cohn, “Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons,” Stimson Center, June 2012. p. 61.
(3) Benjamin Loehrke, “Estimated Missile Defense Spending, FY13-FY17,” Ploughshares Fund, August 2012. http://bit.ly/TQhWsL † To derive these costs, we borrow data for FY08 from Schwartz & Choubey then assume those costs to grow with inflation through FY22. Schwartz & Choubey, “Nuclear Security Spending: Assessing Costs, Examining Priorities,” Carnegie Endowment, 2009.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.