While Nation Reels, Pentagon Budget Keeps Ramping Up Nuclear Weapons

It appears that, once again, Congress will pass a colossal military spending budget as part of the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act. This June, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to tack an additional $45 billion dollars onto Biden’s proposed national defense budget, raising the topline figure to a whopping $847 billion dollars

A major component of this year's proposed defense budget, much like last year's, are efforts to “recapitalize and modernize” the nation’s “nuclear stockpile, delivery systems, and infrastructure” in light of the increasing supposed nuclear threats posed by Russia, China, and North Korea. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s proposals would allocate $22 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration, $6.5 billion to the Department of Energy’s Defense Environmental Cleanup activities, $1.1 billion for the Department of Defense’s nuclear and defense activities, and an additional $2.9 billion to bolster U.S. plutonium pit capabilities as part of these efforts. Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee has pledged $29.5 billion for nuclear weapons programs within the Department of Energy, signaling a unified commitment to the nuclear enterprise. 

While both sides of Congress seek to ramp up nuclear warfare capabilities and fearmonger about foreign adversaries, not only is the potential for nuclear combat very unlikely, further ‘preparation’ would be highly impractical. According to the most recent figures, the U.S. is in possession of 3,708 nuclear warheads in its military stockpile, eclipsing all other nations (barring Russia) by well over 3,000. On top of that, the Government Accountability Office has reported that nuclear spending trends under Trump (trends which Biden has continued thus far) would be unsustainable, amounting to $634 billion spent through fiscal years 2021 and 2030. To put that into perspective, $643 billion could offset the estimated net deficit increase of the Build Back Better Act four times over—with money left to spare.

To quote Senator Ed Markey, “our budget must reflect our values.” In a country reeling from the impacts of a global pandemic, impending climate catastrophe, severe supply chain disruptions, and teetering on the edge of an economic recession, such wasteful spending would be a sabotage of one of this administration’s most crucial promises to the public. If Biden still seeks to ensure safety and prosperity for the American people, increasing militarization is not the way to go. With a full vote for this year’s NDAA expected in July, it is not too late to turn the tide. It is time to say no to nuclear weapons.


Christian Ephriam is a Next Leader on the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.