Smith Statement on the First Official Report Confirming the $1.2 Trillion Cost of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Upgrades
Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about the release of a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimating that planned nuclear weapons efforts will cost about $1.2 trillion over 30 years.
The CBO undertook this independent analysis after House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Smith and House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Visclosky (D-MD) sent a letter in March (attached) requesting that the CBO perform an estimate:
“The American people need to be informed about the true cost of upgrading and increasing capacity for the nuclear weapons enterprise that the administration has planned. Armed Services Committee Democrats have consistently fought to require a realistic estimate of these long-term costs from the Defense Department during the NDAA process, only to see those efforts blocked. For this reason, I am very pleased that the CBO agreed to provide the first official independent assessment of these expenses.
“This is a thorough, credible analysis indicating that the long-term cost of upgrading and expanding the nuclear weapons enterprise capacity will cost some $1.2 trillion over 30 years. Congress still doesn’t seem to have any answers as to how we will pay for this effort, or what the trade-offs with other national security efforts will be if we maintain an arsenal of over 4,000 nuclear weapons and expand our capacity to produce more. I hope the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review takes a hard look at what our requirements are to maintain a strong but affordable deterrent, without breaking the bank or exacerbating a new nuclear arms race.”
Numerous national security officials have pointed out the need for an accurate long-term cost assessment of U.S. nuclear modernization plans:
"Starting in 2021, between 2021 and 2035, it's about $18 billion a year to reconstitute and recapitalize our strategic nuclear deterrent … If that comes out of our conventional forces that will be very, very, very problematic for us. … So, rather than talk about the bow wave, there is future fiscal risk that the country, Congress and future administrations and this administration must come to grips with … Because as soon as we have a better understanding of that, we'll know for sure that our defense strategy is on the right track."
- Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, February 9, 2016
“We do have a problem in the budget, and that problem is called the recapitalization of the triad.”
- Frank Kendall III, Undersecretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology And Logistics, December 2, 2015
“After the end of that period, as we start to actually produce the systems I talked about, we're going to have an affordability problem that we have to deal with … In 2021, we're gonna start to have a problem finding ways to afford these systems. We will work to do that. It's a very high priority and we will work to do that, but it is gonna be a challenge for us.”
- Frank Kendall III, Undersecretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology And Logistics, March 4, 2015
"We're looking at that big bow wave and wondering how the heck we're going to pay for it, and probably thanking our stars we won't be here to have to answer the question.”
- Brian McKeon, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, October 2015
“I don't know of a good way for us to solve this issue."
- Mike McCord, Defense Department Comptroller, November 3, 2015
“This recapitalization will involve substantial outlays over the coming decades, and the merits of some aspects of this expensive recapitalization can be debated. Recapitalization of all three legs of the nuclear Triad with associated weapons could cost between $600 billion and $1 trillion over a thirty year period, the costs of which would likely come at the expense of needed improvements in conventional forces.”
- National Defense Panel review of the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review
“Our problems become unmanageable in FY22 when the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) advances … How much should we recapitalize? We want to have a national debate on that."
- Lt. Gen James Holmes, USAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Requirements, February 12, 2016
"The strategic deterrent fund could be moderately useful to the department, but our real issue is not the fund but funding. … The fund may have some authorities or acquisition tools that could come with it that could provide some modest savings, and that would be fine. But the real question is do we have the resources to do that modernization additive to the rest of the requirements of the department, or will we have to squeeze out other high priorities, and those will be the national decisions that have to be made in coming years."
- Jamie Morin, Director of the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE), March 18, 2016