The Renuclearization of America

While the world focusses on North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons capability and the threats from Washington regarding the JCPOA reached with Iran, a deal that seeks to reduce Iran’s nuclear capabilities, little attention is paid to the ongoing developments in the American nuclear weapons sector, the world’s second-largest nuclear power when measured in terms of weapons in service as shown here:

Thanks to the Arms Control Association, we have a glimpse at what is projected for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, particularly how much these developments will cost American taxpayers.

While the current President of the United States has claimed this in a tweet from August 9, 2017:

My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017

…in fact, it was under the orders of President Barack Obama that the plans were set in place to undertake a massive rejuvenation of America’s nuclear arsenal.  Under the plans which have been inherited by the Trump Administration, the United States will spend an average of $40 billion annually over the period between fiscal 2017 and 2026 as shown on this table from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO):

As you can see, of the $400 billion in anticipated spending, $286 billion will go towards nuclear delivery systems including $90 billion for ballistic missiles for the U.S. submarine fleet and $43 each for ballistic missiles and bombers.  The $400 billion projection is $52 billion or 15 percent higher than CBO estimates from January 2015, showing a significant ramping up of planned spending on America’s triad nuclear capabilities which includes submarines, missiles and bombers.

If we go out further in time, an analysis of Pentagon budget data by the Arms Control Association shows that spending on America’s nuclear fleet will continue to grow out to fiscal 2047, reaching nearly $1.5 trillion as shown on this graphic which breaks down the high and low estimated costs for nuclear force sustainment, modernization and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) which is responsible for “enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science” as well as maintaining and replacing aging nuclear infrastructure:

This analysis by Kingston Reif assumes that inflation increases at an average of 2.1 percent from fiscal 2018 to 2022 and by 2.1 percent plus a real growth rate of 1.5 percent above inflation for the years beyond fiscal 2022.

The author of the analysis feels that it is quite likely that the projected budget of between $369 billion and $417 billion for the NNSA is likely too low.  The NNSA’s most recent budget plans for managing America’s nuclear weapons stockpile as shown here:

…suggests that its needs will continue to grow rapidly as shown on this table and graphic:

Over the 30 year period, the NNSA is expecting to upgrade two air-delivered warheads and develop three interoperable warheads for use on both ICBMs and SLBMs (submarine launched ballistic missiles) on which they project to spend between $73 billion and $95 billion.

Let’s close this section of the posting with a summary graphic showing how the United States is going to recapitalize its nuclear fleet along with a glimpse back in time showing how much was spent in the past (using constant 2016 dollars):

So, with all of this nuclear weapons-related funding available, thanks in no small part to America’s taxpayers, who are the main beneficiaries,outside of North Korea (potentially) and any other nation that stands in the way of American hegemony?  Here are two of the major beneficiaries to this point from a press release dated August 21, 2017:

1) The Boeing Co., Huntsville, Alabama, has been awarded a $349,159,962 contract for Ground-based Strategic Deterrent. This contract is to conduct technology maturation and risk reduction to deliver a low technical risk, affordable total system replacement of Minuteman III to meet intercontinental ballistic missiles operational requirements. Work will be performed in Huntsville, Alabama, and other various locations as needed and is expected to be completed by Aug. 20, 2020. This award is the result of competitive acquisition and three offers were received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $5,700,000 are being obligated at time of award. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity.

2.) Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Redondo Beach, California, has been awarded a $328,584,830 contract for Ground-based Strategic Deterrent. This contract is to conduct technology maturation and risk reduction to deliver a low technical risk, affordable total system replacement of Minuteman III to meet intercontinental ballistic missiles operational requirements. Work will be performed in Redondo Beach, California, and other various locations as needed and is expected to be completed by Aug. 20, 2020. This award is the result of competitive acquisition and three offers were received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $5,700,000 are being obligated at time of award. Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is the contracting activity.

There’s $678 million committed!  Lockheed Martin, America’s largest defense contractor, also bid on the contracts but its bid was rejected.

Given the political power that lies in the military-industrial complex, its not terribly surprising to see that hundreds of billions of dollars will be flowing into the coffers of the main players in America’s defense industry.  It is also interesting to see that, despite the nation’s $20 trillion debt, that administration after administration feels compelled to spend hundreds of billions of dollars that they don’t have on weapons that they will hopefully never use rather than on health care, education and other necessities of life. 

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