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Planned Defense Cuts Endanger U.S. Nuke Spending Plan

A new U.S. congressional agreement to reduce funding to military-related programs has placed in doubt a nuclear weapons complex spending plan negotiated last year amid efforts to win ratification of an strategic arms control deal with Russia, Arms Control Today reported in its latest issue (see GSN, Sept. 12).

“The challenge here is that we have to recapitalize all three legs (of the nuclear triad), and we don’t have the money to do it,” then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright said on July 14 ahead of his retirement. The "nuclear triad" refers to the nation's land-, air- and sea-based nuclear deterrent.

The Defense Department backed plans for an anticipated $350 million in funding reductions spread out over a decade, but it has not expressed support for at least $500 billion in potential cuts that could begin in 2013 under a law adopted last month. Those additional cuts would be triggered if lawmakers fail to enact additional budget reductions to be negotiated by a special congressional panel (see GSN, Aug. 3).

“We’re not going to be able to go forward with weapon systems that cost what weapon systems cost today,” U.S. Strategic Command chief Gen. Robert Kehler said in July. “Case in point is (the) Long-Range Strike (bomber). Case in point is the Trident (submarine) replacement. … The list goes on.”

“Everything is on the table” regarding the spending situation's eventual impact on the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Kehler said.

A number of Republicans are considering potential nuclear spending reductions, including a $79 billion drop proposed by Senator Tom Coburn (Okla.) in his deficit-slashing plan. The lawmaker's initiative would see the United States bring its strategic nuclear arsenal under the 1,550 cap allowed by the New START pact and also lower the count of reserve warheads and weapon delivery systems.

In May, Principal Deputy Defense Undersecretary James Miller said President Obama was planning through the coming decade for $125 billion in funding for 12 ballistic missile submarines, a modernized ICBM and other nuclear-weapon delivery technologies (Tom Collina, Arms Control Today, September 2011).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

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    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview

    Sept. 27, 2013

    A fact sheet on current and projected costs of maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent, produced by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.