How would you spend $640 Billion?
It's not easy to know how much our nation pays for our nuclear weapons programs. There is no official nuclear weapons budget. Instead, government spending accounts are often opaque, poorly defined and always spread out over several government agencies. But, as we debate appropriate levels of defense spending, Ploughshares Fund believes that it's important to get a sense of what the overall nuclear budget looks like.
That's why today, we've released a new paper that calculates what the United States is currently planning to spend on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next decade. Using publicly available data and expert analysis, we find that, if nothing changes, the U.S. will spend somewhere between $620 billion and $661 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs.
This number is a conservative attempt to include all spending related to nuclear weapons in one estimate, allowing advocates and citizens a reasonable accounting of what our current nuclear policies are expected to cost.
Our estimate includes costs to maintain and modernize our existing nuclear arsenal, pay for missile defense programs, support the environmental and health costs associated with past and current nuclear weapons programs, and continue nuclear threat reduction programs. Some of these programs are entirely essential. But the cost of many programs could be reduced or eliminated if the nation were to reduce our nuclear stockpiles or adopt a different nuclear weapons posture.
As the government discusses reductions in defense spending, hard choices will have to be made. Already, there has been talk of cutting veterans health benefits or conventional weapons programs that are needed today. Before we cut support for our soldiers and their families, or deprive them of weapons they need in the field, shouldn't we take a hard look at the nuclear weapons budget?
And then ask yourself: how would you spend $640 billion?