i: An intercontinental ballistic missile with a simulated warhead is launched during an operational test at Vandenberg air force base in California in April. Photograph: Pix/Rex/Shutterstock
Trump team drawing up fresh plans to bolster US nuclear arsenal
The total price tag marks nearly a 25% increase from previous estimate, taking in the modernisation programme established under the Obama administration, which account for $400bn, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found. The costs would peak in the 2020s and the 2030s.
A new Nuclear Posture Review is under way and expected around the end of the year. Trump has repeatedly vowed to bolster the nuclear stockpile, and the defence department is reportedly considering the development of a low-yield warhead for a ballistic missile, and reintroducing a sea-launched cruise missile, among a variety of new options.
“If these plans reach fruition, it would be the largest nuclear build-up since the Reagan administration. This is not affordable,” said Stephen Schwartz, an independent nuclear analyst and editor of the book, Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940.
“Pursuing nuclear modernization will be challenging in the current environment,” the report said, adding that it would compete with parallel ambitions to upgrade the navy and the air force, and increase the size of the army.
It is the first comprehensive costing of the US nuclear weapons programme. The report offers three approaches for cost reductions to make it affordable. One would keep the programme as is currently planned but delay elements of it, bringing potential savings of 5%.
The second looks at ways of reducing the programme but keeping to the existing ceiling agreed with Russia of 1550 deployed strategic warheads. One variant of that approach examined by the CBO would be to do without one leg of the nuclear ‘triad’, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and keeping air-launched and sea-launched weapons. That would generate savings of 10%, the report said.