What We Spend on Nuclear Weapons

The United States is projected to spend $700 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs during the next ten years. As federal budgets tighten and officials address the most pressing national security needs of the 21st century, the substantial cost of nuclear weapons must be fully examined. By understanding these costs and setting effective national security priorities, policymakers can reduce nuclear budget excesses incurred by the active stockpile of approximately 5,000 nuclear weapons.

Ploughshares Fund has written a working paper to address the magnitude of this complex issue. As a result of this analysis, we are convinced that the current projected expenditures on nuclear weapons are mismatched for both the fiscal and physical threats we face as a country, and must therefore come down. This working paper should be viewed as a living document that, as the budget picture for nuclear weapons spending becomes clearer, will be adjusted to match the changing policy environment.

We hope that this working paper will contribute to the overall national debate about defense spending, both for the sake of our national security and our country's fiscal health. It is our view that these projected investments are oriented towards fighting last century's wars, thereby creating significant financial waste while undercutting our country's ability to address the threats we all face. In an era of tight federal budgets, limited defense dollars must be spent wisely to address the security needs of today and the anticipated security needs of tomorrow. Our projected nuclear weapons spending, as outlined in this paper, does not meet this standard.

Ultimately, the United States must find a bipartisan path forward for reducing the nuclear budget burden that we all face. We should not saddle our children and grandchildren with hundreds of billions of dollars of unnecessary future expenditures for weapons systems that we neither need nor can afford. We hope that you enjoy reading the working paper and look forward to your feedback.

UPDATE 9/28: "What We Spend on Nuclear Weapons" Ver. 2 can be found here.