Those of us who grew up during the darkest days of the Cold War remember this:
…and this poster on various buildings throughout the United States.
In the latest budget proposal for fiscal 2017, the Obama Administration has set aside substantial funding for modernizing America's nuclear options which will be extremely costly for U.S. taxpayers over the coming years as you will see in this posting. As well, while the President has reassured us that the spending on nukes is not related to Russia, such does not appear to be the case.
Let's open by looking at the current global inventory of nuclear weapons and how that level has changed over the decades:
At its peak in 1986, there were 64,449 nuclear weapons worldwide; in 2013, there were 10,215, far more than would be needed to totally obliterate life on Planet Earth.
Here is a diagram showing how much weapons-grade uranium and plutonium is in storage (in hundreds of metric tons):
According to the Arms Control Association, the U.S. maintains a modern arsenal of about 1900 strategic nuclear warheads that are deployed on three platforms; intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and Strategic Bombers. The U.S. military is in the process of modernizing its nuclear delivery systems and refurbishing its inventory of nuclear weapons. Here's what Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert Work, had to say in testimony before the House Committee on Armed Services about the cost of these programs back in June 2015:
"After adding the cost of making required improvements to our nuclear command and control systems, modernizing and sustaining our nuclear arsenal is projected to cost the Department of Defense an average of $18 billion per year from 2021 to 2035 in FY16 dollars. This is approximately 3.4% of our current, topline defense budget. When combined with the continuing cost to sustain the current force while we build the new one this will roughly double the share of the defense budget allocated to the nuclear mission. This will require very hard choices and increased risk in some missions without additional funding above current defense budget levels."
Actually, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the CBO estimates that nuclear forces will cost $348 billion between fiscal 2015 and 2024 and could reach a total of $1 trillion over the next three decades. The $348 billion includes the following:
1.) $160 billion for strategic nuclear delivery systems and weapons
2.) $8 billion for tactical nuclear delivery systems and weapons
3.) $79 billion for nuclear weapons laboratories and their supporting activities
4.) $52 billion for nuclear-related command, control, communications and early-warning systems.
ICBMs alone account for $26 billion of the total.
Here is a table showing the requests for fiscal 2016 and 2017 alone:
As I noted at the beginning, despite past public reassurances that the Obama Administration was seeking to end the nuclear weapon era as shown in this speech from a somewhat more naive President Obama back on April 1, 2009 after his meeting with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev :
"We also discussed nuclear arms control and reduction. As leaders of the two largest nuclear weapons states, we agreed to work together to fulfill our obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and demonstrate leadership in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world, while recognizing that this long-term goal will require a new emphasis on arms control and conflict resolution measures, and their full implementation by all concerned nations."
"Now, one of those issues that I'll focus on today is fundamental to the security of our nations and to the peace of the world -– that's the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.
The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. No nuclear war was fought between the United States and the Soviet Union, but generations lived with the knowledge that their world could be erased in a single flash of light. Cities like Prague that existed for centuries, that embodied the beauty and the talent of so much of humanity, would have ceased to exist….So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly –- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, "Yes, we can.""
Whatever happened to that "hope and change"?
Here are two points from the DoD Fiscal 2017 Budget showing that this spending has everything to do with Russia:
"1.) We are countering Russia’s aggressive policies through investments in a broad range of capabilities. The FY 2017 budget request will allow us to modify and expand air defense systems, develop new unmanned systems, design a new long-range bomber and a new long-range stand-off cruise missile, and modernize our nuclear arsenal.
2.) The budget quadruples last year’s request for the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) to $3.4 billion in FY 2017 to reassure our NATO allies and deter Russian aggression. This funding supports prepositioning additional combat equipment, conducting additional training exercises, and enabling a continuous brigade-size rotation which will ensure we have three Army brigade combat teams in Europe at all times."
Here are some additional quotes from Deputy Secretary of Defense, Robert Work:
"In the wake of the Russian Federation’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, senior Russian officials have made numerous statements regarding Russia’s nuclear forces, their capabilities, and intentions. Those statements constitute veiled, and not so veiled, attempts to intimidate our allies and us. Threatening and cavalier language like this has no place in the responsible dialogue between nations. Neither the United States nor our NATO and Asian allies need to be reminded that Russia is a nuclear-armed state. But it appears that Russia must continually be reminded of NATO’s lack of aggressive intent on the one hand, and unwavering determination to defend its members on the other. Russian actions, including its irresponsible nuclear saber rattling have, if anything, strengthened Alliance solidarity and led us to take a number of measures to deter further Russian aggression and reassure our allies…
Russian nuclear force modernization continues, within the limits of the New START Treaty. We assess that the Russians remain in compliance with New START, which remains in our mutual national security interest, and intends to adhere to the central limits of the treaty when they come into effect in February 2018. To date, the Russians have not shown interest in further reductions of our respective nuclear forces as proposed by the President in Berlin in 2013. That proposal remains on the table should they desire to engage.
Russian military doctrine includes what some have called an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy – a strategy that purportedly seeks to deescalate a conventional conflict through coercive threats, including limited nuclear use. We think that this label is dangerously misleading. Anyone who thinks they can control escalation through the use of nuclear weapons is literally playing with fire. Escalation is escalation, and nuclear use would be the ultimate escalation."
Here is part of the testimony given by Brian P. McKeon, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to the House Committee on Armed Services on December 1, 2015:
"Over the course of the last year, the Administration determined that we needed to consider Russian actions with regard to the INF Treaty in the context of its overall aggressive and bellicose behavior that flouts international legal norms and destabilizes the European security order. Russia is not violating the INF Treaty in isolation from its overall aggressive behavior; therefore, we concluded that our responses cannot focus solely on the INF Treaty. Stated another way: this is not just an arms control issue, and it represents a broader challenge to Trans-Atlantic security.
Accordingly, we are developing a comprehensive response to Russian military actions and are committing to investments that we will make irrespective of Russia’s decision to return to compliance with the INF Treaty due to the broader strategic environment we face. And while we do not seek to make Russia an enemy, and we will cooperate with Russia where it is in our interests to do so – such as in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran – the President has made clear that we will uphold our Article 5 obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty.
Our core objective remains the same: to ensure that Russia does not obtain a significant military advantage from its INF violation. We believe that our overall efforts to prepare for the defense in Europe can achieve this goal and ensure that Russia’s INF violations do not leave them with any appreciable advantage over us or our allies. As we consider the changed strategic environment in Europe, we are factoring Russia’s increased cruise missile capabilities, including its INF violation, into our planning….
We are also transforming our posture in Europe in order to be more responsive and sustainable for the 21 Century. American rotational forces need to move more quickly and easily to participate in training and exercises in Europe. That’s why we are prepositioning tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, and other equipment to rapidly respond to crises and provocation rapidly. Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland have agreed to host company- to battalion-sized elements of this equipment, which will be moved around the region for training and exercises."
While the sabre-rattling is not yet at the levels seen during the Cold War years, given the current size of the federal debt and the split in Congress, taxpayers will find it increasingly
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