The Dollars and Sense of Nuclear Weapons

In Prague last April, President Obama raised the world’s hopes with his speech calling for a “nuclear free future.” Since then, his Administration has made non-proliferation – preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to other nations – a top national security priority.

As part of this effort, U.S. officials negotiated important, but modest, reductions in the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons Yet, even as we monitor arms control gains, we must also be aware that President Obama's FY2011 budget proposed increases in nuclear weapons spending to levels not seen since the Reagan Administration. Indeed, General Chilton, head of the U.S. Strategic Command insists that the United States must prepare of nuclear war for the next 40 years.

With the START treaty stalled in the Senate, the stakes are high and 2010 continues to remain a very critical year. NPP's data offers us a window into this complex conversation.

START in the Senate

During this May’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference at the United Nations, the vast majority of the world’s nations called for the U.S. and other nuclear powers to fulfill their Article VI Treaty obligation and begin negotiations for the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

The U.S.-Russian Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) 1 Follow On Treaty was signed last April in Prague and is currently in the Senate, awaiting ratification. The first START, signed in 1991, expiring last December, placed limits on U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. The Follow On Treaty would reduce each side’s deployed nuclear arsenal to 1550 strategic warheads, reductions of just over 600 on each side. Ratification of the Treaty without debilitating amendments will open the way for further negotiations to reduce stockpiled and deployed nuclear weapons and will help to stem nuclear weapons proliferation.

The Obama Administration also hoped to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification. Nuclear weapons cannot be fully developed or deployed without the explosive nuclear tests that will be banned if this treaty goes into effect. The Treaty's ratification and subsequent enforcement are essential to both non-proliferation efforts and to moving the nuclear powers toward fulfillment of their Article VI NPT obligations – both declared goals of the Obama Administration. (Note: While the U.S. has conducted 1,054 nuclear weapons tests and since 1992, it has honored an international moratorium and refrained from conducting any additional explosive radioactive tests.)

Budgets Matter

Today the U.S. has an estimated 9,400 nuclear weapons. Roughly 2,300 are operationally deployed. The stockpile of more than7,000 nuclear warheads needs to be eliminated. Doing so would provide a powerful incentive for Russia to respond in kind, would encourage disarmament measures by other nations, and would mean a savings of billions of taxpayer dollars.

The Obama Administration's FY2011 budget proposes to increase total nuclear weapons-related spending by six percent. Meanwhile, although the $3.2 billion Fiscal Year 2011 funding request for the Defense Department’s and the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation programs is an all-time high and $1.3 billion more than FY 2008, funding for these programs is slated to level off after next year.

Freezing the nuclear weapons budget would save U.S. taxpayers $4.3 billion over the next five years. Yet, even as the Obama Administration states it hopes to reduce the size of the stockpile, it is also seeking to “modernize” it as indicated by a 2011 budget request of $2 billion for “Stockpile Support.” – a 25 percent increase over current levels.

The $2 billion request of “Stockpile Support” includes funding for production of the upgraded W-76 Trident missile, the refurbished B-61 bomb, and exploring options for maintaining W-78 Minuteman warheads for future use. This same $2 billion could generate over 58,000 education-related jobs.

And, even as the Pentagon prepares to retire its nuclear version of the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missiles, President Obama’s budget calls for spending $800 million for the development of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile.

Nuclear Weapons: Costs and Opportunities

Freezing the DoE weapons budget at current levels – $4.3 bn over five years – equals increase in current DoE cleanup budget by 15 percent annually for five years

Freezing the DoE weapons budget at current levels – $4.3 bn over five years – equals 312,000 households with renewable energy for 20 years equals

Projected 25 percent increase for Stockpile Support in FY 2011 – $405 million – equals four-year scholarships for 10,432 university students

$800 million to develop new nuclear-capable cruise missile – equals one year of “Head Start” for over 95,000 children

Reducing the Navy’s Trident submarine fleet from 14 to 10 vessels – $1.3 bn over 10 yrs – equals more than 4,500 affordable housing units

DoE's FY 2011 budget request for “Stockpile Support” – $2 billion – equals more than 58,000 education-related jobs

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