"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
New Report Highlights Costs of and Alternatives to Trump's Nuclear Weapons Spending Plans
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For Immediate Release: April 12, 2019

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

(Washington, D.C.)–A new report from the Arms Control Association describes how the mounting costs of the Trump administration’s plans to replace the U.S. nuclear arsenal are unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe.

The report comes as Congress considers the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for national defense and amid growing concern about the rising price tag of the nuclear spending plans, the Trump administration’s proposals for more usable nuclear capabilities, and the crisis in the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship.

The report assesses options to reduce spending on nuclear weapons that would save as much as $300 billion over the coming 30 years, while still maintaining a devastating nuclear force that can deter nuclear attack by any adversary.

“The United States maintains a larger and more diverse nuclear arsenal than is required to deter and respond to a nuclear attack against itself or its allies,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. “The simple fact is that the planned spending to maintain and replace the arsenal will pose a significant affordability problem, and threaten other national security priorities,” he noted.

The United States currently plans to spend nearly $500 billion, after including the effects of inflation, to maintain and replace its nuclear arsenal over the next decade. Over the next 30 years, the price tag is likely to top $1.5 trillion and could even approach $2 trillion.

The new report, U.S. Nuclear Excess: Costs, Risks, and Alternatives, outlines the Trump administration’s nuclear spending plans, explains why they are financially untenable and potentially destabilizing, and assesses three less expensive alternatives to the plans.

The alternatives analyzed in the report would free up at least an estimated $29 billion to $282 billion from fiscal year 2017 to 2046 that could be spent on more pressing national security priorities. The bulk of these savings would occur over the first 20 years of the 30-year period.

“Changes to the nuclear replacement program could make it easier to execute and ease some of the hard choices facing the overall defense enterprise, while still leaving a force more than capable of deterring nuclear attacks against the United States or its alliance partners,” Reif added.

The report urges Congress to take steps to enhance its understanding of the budget challenges posed by the spending plans and the policy assumptions underlying them. These include:

  • holding in-depth hearings on U.S. nuclear weapons policy and spending;
  • requesting a National Intelligence Estimate on the sufficiency of the U.S. nuclear arsenal; and
  • calling for a report on the cost of the Pentagon’s major nuclear and non-nuclear acquisition programs over the next 20 years.

The Arms Control Association has repeatedly raised concerns about the need and affordability of the nuclear weapons spending plans, argued that these plans pose a threat to other military priorities, and suggested more cost-effective alternatives. The new report released Friday builds upon a 2014 Arms Control Association report titled The Unaffordable Arsenal: Reducing the Costs of the Bloated U.S. Nuclear Stockpile.

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