Dems call on Trump to extend New START Treaty following report on costs of nuke expansion

By Justin Doubleday / August 26, 2020 at 4:48 PM

Leading congressional Democrats are highlighting a new Congressional Budget Office report on the potential costs of foregoing the nuclear weapons limits of the New START Treaty, calling on the Trump administration to extend the pact with Russia before it expires early next year.

In a joint statement released today, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said a Congressional Budget Office report released yesterday makes clear the United States can't afford a "dangerous arms race." The New START Treaty is set to expire in February 2021.

"Extending the New START Treaty for a full five years is clearly the right financial and national security choice. America cannot afford a costly and dangerous nuclear arms race, particularly in the middle of our current economic, political, and health crises," the lawmakers said. "We again call on the Trump Administration to extend the New START Treaty today."

The CBO report examined the potential costs if the United States expanded its strategic nuclear forces from the maximum of 1,550 warheads allowed under New START to levels specified in three recent agreements: the Moscow, START II, and START I treaties, respectively.

The report found expanding forces to the Moscow Treaty limits of 1,700 to 2,200 warheads would not increase the Defense Department's costs relative to its current plans. CBO estimates DOD's production costs for those plans will total $240 billion over the next few decades.

However, expanding forces to the START II limits of 3,000 to 3,500 warheads would cost DOD up to $172 billion to increase the number of delivery vehicles over the next several decades, according to the report. It would also increase DOD's annual operating costs by $3 billion to $8 billion.

Meanwhile, if DOD expanded forces to the START I limits if 6,000 warheads, the onetime costs would rise by $88 billion to $149 billion and annual costs by $4 billion to $10 billion under a "lower-cost approach," according to CBO. Under a "more flexible approach," increasing to the START I limits could increase one-time costs for DOD by as much as $439 billion and its annual costs by as much as $28 billion, the report states.

"Total production costs would be nearly triple what DOD is currently planning to spend on production over the next few decades," it adds.

The CBO report also does not take into account additional costs for the Energy Department to produce more nuclear warheads, as well as additional costs for DOD to establish new operating bases and training facilities, as well as expanding production capabilities if necessary.