That is nearly $150 billion more than administration's $208.5
billion estimate in a report to Congress last year, an analyst at an
arms control group said, and since the modernization effort is just
beginning, costs are expected to greatly increase after 2023.
The budget office said President Barack Obama had requested $23.1
billion for U.S. nuclear forces in the 2014 fiscal year, including
$18 billion to maintain the weapons and supporting laboratories as
well as the submarines, bombers and missiles to deliver the weapons.
In the decade to 2013, the administration's plans to modernize and
maintain submarines, bombers and missiles will cost about $136
billion, the CBO said in a 25-page report.
Weapons labs, weapons and naval reactors will cost $105 billion, and
the United States will spend another $56 billion on command and
control systems. Adding expected cost growth of $59 billion raises
the total to $355 billion over a decade.
The estimates come as the United States is at the start of what Air
Force General Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, has
called a "multi-decade effort to recapitalize our nuclear deterrent
force and its supporting infrastructure."
In addition to modernizing 1970s-era weapons, in some case replacing
1960s-model vacuum tubes with current-day electronics, the Pentagon
will soon need to replace much of the triad of delivery systems,
including a new class of ballistic missile submarines and a new type
of long-range bomber.
Obama, who favors eventually eliminating atomic weapons, has
endorsed the nuclear modernization effort, saying it is needed to
boost the security of the arms and to give U.S. military and
political leaders the confidence they need to negotiate further
reductions in the nuclear arsenal.
The New START treaty that Obama negotiated with Russia committed the
former Cold War rivals to reducing deployed strategic nuclear
weapons to 1,550 per side by 2018.
Obama said in a speech in
Berlin this summer he believes that figure could be reduced by
another third, to between 1,000 and 1,100, and still guarantee U.S.
and allied security.
[to top of second column]
But with the U.S. government facing tight budgets as it attempts to
reduce the massive federal deficit, arms control groups and some
think tanks question the wisdom of spending hundreds of billions on
weapons that are unlikely to be used.
"The impending nuclear modernization tidal wave will force
increasingly difficult tradeoffs between nuclear and conventional
capabilities," said Kingston Reif, a director at the Center for Arms
Control and Non-Proliferation.
He said while it is true U.S. nuclear forces require some
modernization, the current size of the U.S. arsenal is a Cold War
holdover "that is increasingly irrelevant to today's security
threats, costs billions of dollars to maintain and sucks funding
from higher priority programs."
The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a report in October that
some of administration's plans to modernize the weapons were
misguided and violated the spirit of its pledge not to develop new
The budget office report noted that the United States also spends a
substantial sum on other nuclear-related activities, including
legacy costs of nuclear arms and spending on threat reduction, arms
control and missile defense systems.
Those costs will be an additional $20.8 billion in the 2014 fiscal
year that began in October and are estimated to total $215 billion
over the decade to 2023, the budget office said.
(Reporting by David Alexander; editing by Leslie Adler)
[© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2013 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.