The Defense Authorization Act last year mandated that the Obama administration submit a 10 year budget plan for the nuclear weapons infrastructure. Last week the administration submitted this plan along with the New START treaty to the Senate. And the figures were shockingly large. In a time of growing deficits and following Secretary Gates’ calls to cut the fat in the defense budget, the Obama administration has made George W. Bush look like a nuclear cheap skate.
The Obama administration had previewed its intentions with its FY11 budget proposal in February, which requested a huge 10 percent increase for the nuclear weapons complex. This amount was so high it led George W. Bush’s nuclear administrator to remark that “he would have killed for this budget” and nuclear opponents to grumble about the massive funding going to the nuclear bureaucracy. During a speech in February, Vice President Biden said the spending on the nuclear weapons complex was likely to have detractors from traditional supporters – and with good reason. These budget numbers provide a massive amount of funding for nuclear weapons that goes well beyond what is necessary to maintain an effective deterrent. The Washington Post reports that Obama administration:
spending on modernization of the nuclear weapons complex over the decade will reach $80 billion, growing from $6.4 billion this year to $7 billion in coming years and eventually topping $8 billion beginning in 2016. The growing costs reflect not just construction of facilities but also the refurbishment and possible replacement of some warheads in the next decade, all without the need for testing, according to the summary.
To put this in context, from 2000 to 2010, including the tenure of the Bush administration, the US spent just about $68 billion. Yet under the Obama administration they are planning to spend $78 billion – amounting to a 15 percent increase over the Bush administration.
This increase is massive and unneccessary. The JASON advisory panel – essentially the gold standard of nuclear panels – confirmed that the lesser funding provided by the Bush administration effectively maintained the nuclear arsenal.
Lifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs [Life Extension Programs] to date.
The nuclear weapons complex has more than enough money to maintain an effective nuclear deterrence, especially when there are many fewer nuclear weapons to maintain since our nuclear stockpiles have shrunk at a rapid rate over the last two decades.
This budget effectively gives Senator Kyl, McCain, and Lieberman what they wanted – massive increases to the nuclear bureaucracy – and considering this was their principal argument against supporting New START, their support for START should now be a given. Yet like on other legislation, this could quite easily be another case of Lucy pulling the football away. Kyl will now likely shift his focus of complaints to other areas, making it still an open qustion whether this over-the top and unnecessary budget buys any support after all.