Nuclear Weapons Threaten to Bust the Defense Budget

Over the past two weeks, experts have published over two dozen articles criticizing the nuclear spending plans in President Obama's defense budget for Fiscal Year 2015, a notable increase in the level of discussion on this topic. Below, we provide, by date of publication, some of the best stories on the nuclear budget and why experts believe these plans do not match our real defense needs.

Increasing spending on nuclear weapons while cutting spending everywhere else shows "the administration is focusing on maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile while devoting fewer resources to preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials,” says Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “So far, the Pentagon says it is not considering options for reducing the high cost of nuclear modernization programs,” adds Tom Collina of the Arms Control Association  “It should. The United States can stay at warhead levels set by the 2010 New START treaty and still save billions by scaling back and delaying new delivery systems.”

One thing is painfully clear: “Nuclear forces cost serious money. A Congressional Budget Office report issued in December projected the cost of U.S. nuclear forces over the next ten years at $355 billion,” says Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution. “A January study by the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at Monterey put the cost of the strategic triad over the next 30 years at a cool trillion dollars.” Serious money indeed.

But it's not just talk. Ploughshares Fund is working with our grantees and network to match U.S. defense resources to our real security needs. And new legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and the House to help highlight the outdated levels of expenditures on nuclear weapons. As Senator Ed Markey says about his new SANE Act that would cut unnecessary nuclear programs, "America faces a real choice: spend billions on nuclear weapons we no longer need or fund programs that educate our children and help find cures to deadly diseases." Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who introduced matching legislation in the House of Representatives, concludes bluntly, "We cannot afford these weapons and we don't need them."  

Rachel Maddow summed it up in the title of her second column for The Washington Post, “A Nuclear Weapons Strategy That’s Stuck in the Past,” where she concludes, "If we’re thinking about places to cut the budget without hurting national security and military readiness, our ground-based missiles—those missiles on the high plains—are blinking red for attention."

We completely agree.

A Brief Bibliography of Recent Articles on the Nuclear Budget

The Threat to America's Nukes by Michael Krepon in Politico. Feb. 25

Pentagon Plans Work on New Missile Defense Interceptor by Andrea Shalal in Reuters. Feb. 25  

Chuck Hagel's Nuclear Exemption by Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. Feb. 26 

The FY 2014 Budget-The Final Tally for NNSA Weapons Programs by Eryn MacDonald in All Things Nuclear. Feb. 27 

Markey Files Bill to Cut $100 Billion in Nuclear Arms Funds by Rachel Oswald in Global Security Newswire. Feb 28

A Nuclear Weapons Strategy That’s Stuck in the Past by Rachel Maddow in The Washington Post. Feb. 28

Obama Administration Asks for a Nuclear Weapons Budget Increase by John Fleck in the Albuquerque Journal. March 4 

Don't Give Up on Spending Discipline at the Pentagon by William Hartung in The Hill. March 4  

Highlights from the FY15 NNSA Budget by Stephen Young in All Things Nuclear. March 5 

Obama Budget Slashes Support for Key Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Programs by Jim Baird for Fissile Materials Working Group. March 5

Hiding Under Our Desks on Nuclear Policy by Rep. Mike Quigley in the Huffington Post. March 5  

USAF General: 'Of Course' Bomber Will Be More Than $500M Per Copy by Aaron Mehta in Defense News. March 5

NNSA Budget Request Includes Slight Spending Increase for UPF by John Huotari in Oak Ridge Today. March 6 

Long-Range Bomber's Development Would Get $12 Billion by Tony Capaccio in Bloomberg. March 6  

The Nuclear Triad, for Less by Tom Collina in Arms Control Now. March 7

Obama Administration Defends Cuts on Nuclear Security by Aamer Madhani in USA Today. March 8  

Defunding Defense by Robert Samuelson in The Washington Post. March 9 

Yes to Nukes, No to Silos Bloomberg editorial. March 9 

Nukes, Dollars and Sense by Steven Pifer in The National Interest. March 10 

Shift in Defense by James Carroll in The Boston Globe. March 10 

Reining in Nuke Spending the Smart Way by Eric Tamerlani in Roll Call. March 12

Nuclear Modernization in an Age of Austerity by Amy Woolf in Arms Control Today. March 2014

Image by Amanda Waldron for Ploughshares Fund