President Barack Obama’s plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapon complex will cost the country about $355 billion over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, said in a report released on Friday.
The Obama administration’s plans for the nuclear arsenal include modernization of nuclear weapons, their delivery systems, the national laboratories and the complex of supporting facilities that maintain the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The nuclear budget request from the administration comes at a time the nation is facing across-the-board budget cuts to alleviate the country's rising budget deficit, and amid a debate over the amount of nuclear weapons the country should maintain.
The estimated budget cost of $355 billion is about $150 billion more than a previous estimate made by the government in a report to Congress last year, and also includes the costs for operating and maintaining the nuclear weapons over the next 10 years.
According to the CBO report, the government has decided to maintain all three types of weapon systems that can deliver nuclear weapons over long ranges, collectively called the nuclear triad. This includes submarines that launch ballistic missiles, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers, most of which are from the 1970s.
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“Nearly all of those delivery systems and the nuclear weapons they carry are nearing the end of their planned operational lives and will need to be modernized or replaced by new systems over the next two decades,” the CBO said in the report.
For the next 10-year period, to 2023, the U.S. will spend $136 billion on strategic nuclear-delivery systems, $105 billion for nuclear weapons and ballistic missile submarines, and $56 billion for nuclear command, control, communications and early-warning systems, while the remaining $59 billion is budgeted to cover unforeseen nuclear-related expenses over 10 years.
For the year 2014, the administration has requested $23.1 billion for operating and maintaining nuclear delivery systems and weapons. That also include the costs of addressing the nuclear legacy of the Cold War, including dismantling retired nuclear weapons and cleaning up the environment around contaminated historical nuclear facilities; and of reducing nuclear threats from other countries, according to the CBO report.
Obama, who supports an eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons, has been maintaining that modernizing the nation’s nuclear forces are imperative to boost the security of the US military and give political leaders enough confidence in nuclear non-proliferations talks with other countries.
However, critics of nuclear weapons argue that the current U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons is based on Cold War-era requirements and should be downsized.
It is “increasingly irrelevant to today's security threats, costs billions of dollars to maintain and sucks funding from higher-priority programs," Kingston Reif, a director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation told Reuters.