$60 Billion Nuclear Subs Eat Up the Navy Shipbuilding Budget
Today's top nuclear policy stories, events, and analysis with excerpts in bullet form.
Stories we're following today - Monday, April 18, 2011:
Pentagon Buying Chief: Navy Can’t ‘Hide’ Nuclear Sub Fleet’s $60 Billion Price Tag - John T. Bennett in The Hill [link]
- The Navy will have to find room in its annual shipbuilding budget for its $60 billion nuclear-powered submarine program, a senior Pentagon official said this week.
- With each new nuclear-powered sub expected to cost around $5 billion, Navy officials have for some time said paying for a dozen models would “squeeze” their shipbuilding budget and threaten shrinkage of their future surface vessel fleet.
- To pare costs, [CRS analyst] O’Rourke laid out several potential moves, including loading the SSBN(X)s with fewer ballistic missiles; stretching out the procurement schedule; using two-year funding to buy them; and the plan Carter dismissed, using non-shipbuilding account monies.
- That’s not going to happen because “you’re not going to hide $60 billion,” Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter told Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) during a House Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing.
Iran Will Not Hinder Plans for a Nuclear-Free World - National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in The Financial Times [link]
- Two years ago this month in Prague, President Obama proposed steps to advance the goal of “a world without nuclear weapons”. In the 24 months since, we have laid the foundation for these next steps in arms control. But now new action is needed.
- We will work to secure the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, and use a new international fuel bank to ensure that the use of nuclear energy does not lead to proliferation.
- We will also seek to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty into force, while pursuing a further treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.
- We must address the issue of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons… To do this we seek to reduce the role and number of US tactical nuclear weapons, as Russia takes reciprocal measures to reduce its own tactical forces, and also to relocate these away from Nato’s borders.
- The US remains committed to an effective missile defense system to defend against emerging missile threats… our approach was embraced by NATO at the Lisbon summit, and it paves the way for missile defense co-operation between Russia and the US, enhancing the security of both nations, and Europe.
How to Save a Trillion Dollars - Mark Thompson in Time [link]
- Across Washington, all sorts of people are starting to ask the unthinkable questions about long-sacred military budgets. Can the U.S. really afford more than 500 bases at home and around the world? Do the Air Force, Navy and Marines really need $400 billion in new jet fighters when their fleets of F-15s, F-16s and F-18s will give them vast air superiority for years to come? Does the Navy need 50 attack submarines when America's main enemy hides in caves? Does the Army still need 80,000 troops in Europe 66 years after the defeat of Adolf Hitler?
- Numbers alone tell much of the story: we are now spending 50% more (even excluding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) than we did on 9/11. We are spending more on the military than we did during the Cold War, when U.S. and NATO troops stared across Germany's Fulda Gap at a real super-power foe with real tanks and thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at U.S. cities.
- The annual purchase of two $3 billion attack submarines to maintain a 48-sub fleet as far as the periscope can see also could be scaled back. The $383 billion F-35 program really isn't required when U.S. warplanes remain the world's best and can be retooled with new engines and electronics to keep them that way. Reagan-era missile defenses and the nuclear arsenal are largely Cold War relics with little relevance today. Altogether, Congress could save close to $500 billion by smartly scaling back procurement over the next decade.
Japan Crisis Raises Doubts About Nuclear Fuels Plant at SRS - Time Smith in Greenville Online [link]
- The huge construction project at the Savannah River Site is an ambitious attempt to get rid of dangerous nuclear weapons plutonium by turning it into something called mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, as part of a nonproliferation agreement with Russia.
- One of the stricken nuclear reactors in Japan contains MOX, and the crippled plant has raised fears that it could release dangerous plutonium into the atmosphere, which could escalate the crisis.
- The Tennessee Valley Authority, which has agreed to consider using MOX fuel in up to five of its reactors in Tennessee and Alabama, wants to study what happened with the MOX used in the Japanese reactor before committing to using it in its reactors, a spokesman said.
Looking Back on Nuclear Progress - Ken Brill for The Hill’s “Congress Blog” [link]
- One year ago this week a quarter of the world’s heads of state convened in Washington to address one of the most important issues of our time – the threat posed by nuclear weapons and unsecured nuclear material.
- Twelve months later early results from the summit are in and American leadership is producing significant progress in the global battle against the spread of nuclear materials.
- In only a year’s time, 90% of the national commitments made at the summit have been completed or had significant progress made, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security. Russia, for example, shut down its plutonium production altogether— Chile surrendered its stockpile of uranium.
- Loose nuclear materials combined with Al Qaeda's well-known commitment to acquiring and using a nuclear device constitutes a serious threat that demands our sustained effort and attention. U.S.-led programs like the Global Threat Reduction Initiative are vital to ensuring the fight against nuclear terrorism is truly global.
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