Nuclear Spending

By Dan Dupont / December 20, 2013 at 10:01 PM

The Congressional Budget Office today released its annual review of U.S. nuclear weapons spending, projecting total expenditures for the next six years.

The report, called for by Congress in the fiscal year 2013 Defense Authorization Act, estimates "the costs over the next 10 years of the Administration’s plans for operating, maintaining, and modernizing nuclear weapons and the military systems capable of delivering those weapons."

The numbers are huge. From the report's summary:

Between 2014 and 2023, the costs of the Administration’s plans for nuclear forces will total $355 billion, in CBO’s estimation. Of that total, $296 billion represents CBO’s projection of the amounts budgeted for strategic and tactical nuclear delivery systems ($136 billion over 10 years); for nuclear weapons, DOE’s nuclear weapons enterprise, and SSBN nuclear reactors ($105 billion over 10 years); and for nuclear command, control, communications, and early-warning systems ($56 billion over 10 years). The remaining $59 billion of the total represents CBO’s estimate of the additional costs that will ensue over the coming decade, beyond the budgeted amounts, if the nuclear programs experience cost growth at the same average rate that similar programs have experienced in the past.

In addition to operating and maintaining current systems, DoD and DOE plan to modernize or replace many weapons and delivery systems over the next few decades. Planned nuclear modernization programs include new SSBNs, long-range bombers, ICBMs, and cruise missiles, as well as major life-extending refurbishments of current ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and nearly all nuclear warheads. Of the $241 billion budgeted for nuclear delivery systems and weapons over the next 10 years (combining the $136 billion and $105 billion figures in the preceding paragraph), CBO estimates that $152 billion would be spent to field and maintain the current generation of systems and $89 billion would be spent to modernize or replace those systems. Because most of those modernization efforts are just beginning, annual costs for nuclear forces are expected to increase.

From 2021 to 2023, nuclear costs would average about $29 billion annually, roughly 60 percent higher than the $18 billion requested for 2014. Annual costs are likely to continue to grow after 2023 as production begins on replacement systems.