Pentagon Still Doesn’t Know How to Pay for New Subs

Exorbitant costs for nuclear-armed submarines - “The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer has approved advanced development for a fleet of 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, a potential $126 billion project that the Navy calls its top priority,” writes Anthony Capaccio for Bloomberg. “‘I’m hoping to have it done before I leave,’ Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisition who’s departing when President Barack Obama steps down on Jan. 20, said in an interview shortly before he signed the decision memo that officially moves the program forward.”

--“The new Columbia-class submarine is part of a trillion-dollar program to modernize the U.S.’s sea-air-land nuclear triad over the next 30 years, including maintenance and support… The projected $126 billion acquisition cost, an estimate that factors in expected inflation, puts the new submarines behind only the $379 billion F-35 aircraft and the $153 billion multiservice ballistic-missile defense network among the costliest U.S. defense programs… The Navy estimate sees procurement spending for the submarine program increasing to $2.8 billion in fiscal 2019 from $773 million this year. It would hit $5.1 billion in 2022. That doesn’t include long-range operating and support costs.” For more details on the new Columbia-class submarine development, read the story here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: "The more #nuclearweapons exist and are upgraded, the more likely they are to be used."

Budget Office weighs in on subs - The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report highlighting the cost overruns the Navy nuclear submarine project will encounter, writing, “The average annual cost of carrying out that plan over the next 30 years — about $21 billion in 2016 dollars, the Congressional Budget Office estimates — would be one-third more than the average amount of funding that the Navy has received for shipbuilding in recent decades… The Navy’s shipbuilding plan reports only the costs of new-ship construction. It excludes other activities typically funded from the Navy’s budget account for ship construction—such as refueling nuclear-powered aircraft carriers or outfitting new ships with various small pieces of equipment after they are built and delivered—that would, by CBO’s estimate, add $1.8 billion to the Navy’s average annual shipbuilding costs under the 2017 plan.”

-- According to the CBO report, “if the Navy received the same average annual amount of funding (in constant dollars) for ship construction in each of the next 30 years that it received over the past three decades, the service would not be able to afford its 2017 plan. CBO’s estimate of $18.9 billion per year for new-ship construction under the Navy’s 2017 shipbuilding plan is 36 percent more than the historical average of $13.9 billion (in 2016 dollars) in annual funding for new-ship construction… However, the funding proposed in the 2017 FYDP exceeds the amounts available to DoD under current law: The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) placed caps on both defense and nondefense discretionary spending that remain in effect through 2021.” Full report here.

See also - “A Better Way To Buy Nuclear Submarines,” by Tom Collina and Jacob Marx for Breaking Defense.

Nuke waste costs taxpayers - The only nuclear waste repository in the U.S. reopened yesterday. “Since 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, about 25 miles east of Carlsbad [New Mexico], has been storing transuranic nuclear waste left over from weapons research and testing... [But] a section of the plant was contaminated in February 2014 because one canister of waste... ruptured in one of the storage rooms. More than 20 workers also were contaminated, and the plant that had almost 150 workers at the time was forced to close.”

--“New Mexico's Environment Department initially fined the federal Energy Department $54 million because of the leak — $36.6 million against Los Alamos and $17.7 against the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in December 2014. But the federal government contested the fines... [and] taxpayers across the country instead will pay for about $73 million in state highway improvements, including a stretch between the nuclear waste repository and Carlsbad, and projects near Los Alamos as the penalty.” Full article here.

Tweet - @WinWithoutWar: There is no technical reason to resume testing. 'Sensible Stewardship of Our Nuclear Weapons via @DarylGKimball

Trump’s Cold War thinking - “Few words issued by President-elect Donald Trump could matter more than his recent rhetoric on nuclear weapons,” writes Dave Mosher for Business Insider. “His tough-guy attitude echoes Cold War-era logic: outmatch your adversaries, or risk a nation-destroying preemptive strike. But this line of thinking is exceedingly dangerous in a future US president. It not only ignores disquieting facts about nuclear weapons and threatens to further implode a global half-century-long effort to reduce nuclear armaments, it also increases the risk of a nuclear catastrophe.”

--“Trump's push for nuclear proliferation is the worst possible option, not even worthy of being a last resort... [W]e all need to have frank and honest discussions... about the reality of nuclear weapons, including their numbers, risks, cost, and imminent threat to the future of humanity. Every weapon we dismantle is one step farther away from the worst kind of mishap imaginable... [Trump’s] report with Russia places him a unique position to lead potentially powerful, bilateral diplomacy and arms reductions efforts. If he can pull it off, there'd almost certainly be a Nobel Peace Prize — and at least one indelibly positive historical legacy — waiting for him.” Full essay here.

Trump’s version of madman theory - “Is Donald Trump a madman? Or, at least, would he like foreign leaders to think he might be just a little unstable?” asks Nicole Hemmer for Vox. “Across the pundit-sphere, analysts are asking, is he crazy, or crazy like a fox? In no context is the question more pertinent than Trump’s position on nuclear weapons. His comments both as candidate and president-elect show a more cavalier attitude toward their proliferation and use than any president in the past 30 years. ‘You want to be unpredictable,’ Trump said last January on Face the Nation when asked about nuclear weapons.”

--“The comments prompted instant parallels to Richard Nixon’s ‘madman theory’ of foreign relations: the idea that the president couldn’t be controlled — including where America’s nuclear arsenal was concerned — so foreign leaders should do everything in their power to appease him… Trump doesn’t share his predecessors’ considered strategic thinking and mastery of geopolitics, but that doesn’t make him a madman. The madness is in the weapons themselves, powerful enough to obliterate entire countries, entire peoples, and in the logics that grew up around them to govern their disuse. The only hope is that, as with Nixon and Reagan before him, Trump’s time in office makes clear how badly things can go in an atomic age, and how important it is to continue the push to contain, if not eliminate, the madness in our midst.” Full story here.

Tweet - @nukestrat: Remind me again why the US deploys nuclear weapons in Turkey?

The case against nukes - Nuclear weapons have the capacity to devastate the global community, yet countries still maintain and expand their arsenals. Erika Gregory, Managing Director of N Square Collaborative, gives the case against these destructive weapons in a recent TEDTalk. Video here.

Obama can still improve U.S.-Russia relations - “Riveting as President-elect Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice-style cabinet selection process may be, we should not forget that President Barack Obama still has more than two weeks left in office,” writes Josh Cohen for Reuters. “Given the risk that unsecured Russian nuclear materials could end up in the hands of terrorists, restarting scientist-to-scientist cooperation between [Department of Energy] and Rosatom scientists is critical.”

--“Americans should understand that Russian-American nuclear non-proliferation cooperation is not a concession or favor for Moscow, but rather represents a core U.S. national security interest. Furthermore, this might even be one policy Trump could support. The president-elect has made improving the relationship with Moscow a core foreign policy goal - and Obama could certainly argue that nuclear non-proliferation cooperation fits within the president-elect’s agenda.” Full story here.

India tests long-range missile - “India announced last month it successfully tested the Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which could theoretically deliver a nuke to Beijing,” writes Joshua Berlinger for CNN. “Some in China see the test as a provocation. And provocations can make the region less stable, which can lead to hostilities, says Victor Gao, the director of the China National Association of International Studies.”

--“A spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, responded to a question about the missile launch by noting UN Security Council regulations regarding nuclear capable ballistic missiles and stressing that the two countries ‘are not rivals for competition but partners for cooperation.’” An associate professor at the US Army War College, Patrick Bratton, added, “India has been working on developing this capability for a number of decades and it's no surprise for China... This should not be seen as a radical departure in Sino-Indian relations." Full story here.

Iran sanctions - “President-elect Trump has threatened to tear up the nuclear agreement between Iran and Western powers, and to take a tougher line against Iran, but legal experts are divided on what that spells for actual policy,” writes Samuel Rubenfeld for The Wall Street Journal. “President Trump could... re-impose the ‘secondary’ sanctions that bar foreign companies from doing business with those individuals or entities on sanctions lists. Those sanctions were relaxed as part of the nuclear deal.”

--Yet, as Rich Matheny, a lawyer with Goodwin law firm, points out, “Mr. Trump will find it very hard to re-impose secondary sanctions because there will be little or no international support for it; the world has largely moved on, and the basic framework of the nuclear agreement will endure.” Full report here.

Flashpoint: North Korea

Kim Jong Un may be open to discussion - “Kim Jong Un rang in the New Year with an unsettling announcement: that North Korea was perfecting the design of an intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially posing a dire threat to the United States and its allies,” writes Katelyn Fossett for Politico. “A swirl of tests this year showed [Pyongyang] making significant progress in its medium-range missile program and advancing toward larger goals. But just how scared should we be? And will Kim test President Trump with his first foreign policy crisis, as many national security experts expect?”

--In an interview with Joshua Pollack, senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said, “since [Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech] was relatively muted and restrained compared to what it has been before and the overall focus of the speech was about basically overhauling the economy, I think it signaled that the door is open a crack. He did not refer openly to the new administration. The North Korean media has said very little about Trump, but simply because they are not eager to negotiate with Obama doesn't mean that they wouldn't be interested in negotiating with Trump, in my view. That’s why I see an opportunity there. There just wasn’t a whole lot of menace and saber-rattling.” For the full interview with Joshua Pollack on North Korea, read the story here.

Additional Resources:

--“North Korea is capable of fulfilling its New Year’s threat to start testing an intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017, bringing a long-brewing standoff with the US to the boil in the first year of a Trump administration, weapons experts have warned,” writes Julian Borger for Reuters.

--However, while “North Korea continues to pursue nuclear and ballistic missile technologies... the United States does not believe it is in a position to ‘tip’ one of them with a nuclear warhead, State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday,” reports Doina Chiacu for Reuters.

--For an in-depth evaluation of North Korea’s missile systems and potential U.S. countermeasures, see Patrick Tucker’s piece in Defense One.

Quick Hits:

--“Nuclear weapons: Recalling the unthinkable, fatal possibilities,” by John Crisp for Kitsap Sun, part of the USA Today Network.

--“Iran Nuclear Propulsion: IAEA Firewalls,” by Mark Hibbs for Arms Control Wonk.

--“Sensible Stewardship of Our Nuclear Weapons,” by Daryl Kimball for The New York Times.

--“Japan, nuclear disarmament and the ban treaty,” by Daryl Kimball for Japan Today.

--“The Case for a Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons,” by Francesco Calogero for the European Leadership Network.


--Senate Armed Services Committee, hearing on the nomination of Gen. James Mattis to be Defense Secretary (estimate) on January 9, 2017. Room TBA, Senate Office Building, Washington. Webcast on the committee website.

--“Command and Control: An American Experience Documentary,” Oscar-nominated film to be broadcast by PBS affiliated networks nationwide. January 10, 2017 on PBS. Check your local listings for times.

--"Can the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive a Trump Presidency?" panel discussion with five speakers hosted by National Iranian American Council. The event will take place on January 12, 2017, from 12:00pm to 1:00pm at Rayburn House Office Building, 2168, Washington. RSVP online.

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