U.S. on Track to Spend $640 Billion on Nuclear Weapons over Next Decade

Date: 
October 8, 2012

Nuclear Cuts Could Preserve Vital Programs in a Shrinking Defense Budget

Washington, D.C. – A new working paper released today by Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation, finds that the U.S. is on track to spend between $620 billion and $661 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next decade. Based on publicly available data and expert analyses, this new aggregate estimate is the only existing projection of the total cost for nuclear weapons-related spending in the United States over the next ten years.

“As Congress debates cuts to defense spending that may force veterans and soldiers in the field to sacrifice benefits and needed weapons, American taxpayers deserve to know how much the U.S. plans to spend on nuclear weapons,” said Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund. “Before we destroy vital programs for our servicemen and women, we should give serious consideration to cutting weapons we no longer need.”

Official accounts of spending on nuclear weapons and related programs are often opaque and poorly defined. Partially, this is due to the sprawl of these programs across the federal government. The lack of clarity is also due to disagreement over what programs should be included, and consistently unreliable government budget projections. The number provided by Ploughshares Fund is a conservative attempt to include all spending related to nuclear weapons in one estimate, allowing advocates and citizens a reasonable accounting of what current nuclear weapons policies cost the nation – including the existing nuclear arsenal, modernization programs, missile defenses, environmental and health costs, nuclear threat reduction and nuclear incident management.

“By cutting outdated nuclear weapons programs,” said Ben Loehrke, Ploughshares Fund senior policy analyst, “we could realize substantial savings that might then be directed toward those programs more important for our national security.”

The U.S. still maintains roughly 8,000 nuclear weapons, approximately 5,000 in the active and reserve stockpiles and another 3,000 awaiting dismantlement. Some programs, like those for environmental clean-up or nonproliferation are vital even at reduced force levels and should not be eliminated. A growing consensus of military leaders and security experts, however, believe that the nation’s nuclear stockpile could be reduced, saving defense funds for weapons that are more relevant to today’s threats.