The Pentagon considers eight projects part of its nuclear modernization budget: new ICBMs, cruise missiles, updates to submarine-launched missiles, a new stealth bomber, new strategic submarines, updates to existing gravity bombs, modifications to the F-35 fighter jet that allow it to drop nuclear weapons, and updates to the existing Cold War nuclear command-and-control network. Since 2013, Congress has approved about $67 billion for those, according to Forecast International, a data analysis firm owned by Defense One’s parent company. In fiscal 2021, the funding totaled $13 billion, or about 1.8 percent of the Pentagon’s $704 billion budget.
A Rough Breakdown of the Trillion Dollar Cost of Modernization
The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy
- Warhead "Life Extension Programs"
- Includes upgrades to B61, W80, W76
- New plutonium pit production
- Includes upgrades to B61, W80, W76
- Nuclear Weapons Labs
- Nuclear Weapons Production Plants
- Other Facilities, infrastructure
2/3 Department of Defense
Warhead Delivery Systems
- Land-Based ICBMs
- 642 (400 to deploy) new ICBMs
- SSBNs: Ballistic Missile Submarines
- 12 new Columbia Class SSBNs
- Bombers & Air-Launched Cruise Missiles
- Upgrades to the B-1, the B-2, and the B-52
- LRSB: 100 new B-21 strategic bombers
- LRSO: 1000+ nuclear-capable cruise missiles
- Upgrades to the B-1, the B-2, and the B-52
Warhead Production and 'Life Extension Programs'
- The W76 was chosen as a SSBN (submarine-launched ICBM) warhead.
- The W80-4 is to be the warhead for the next-gen nuclear cruise missile (LRSO).
- The B61-12 upgrade with new Tail-kit.
- Plutonium pit production.
Note that the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) runs all weapons related activities under the DOE. Environmental cleanup of wastes from nuclear weapons production is under the jurisdiction of the DOE without NNSA involvement. While the NNSA budget is set to increase, DOE's is set to decrease.
Warhead Delivery Systems
- New ICBMs (aka GBSD, or Ground-Based-Strategic-Deterrent): This is a contested element of the planned triad modernization. William Perry and others have argued that land-based ICBMs are the one way a computer glitch could end up triggering total nuclear war, and should therefore be eliminated in favor of bombers and SSBNs. Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and Lockheed have submitted bids for the roughly $70 billion job.
- SSBNs are to be designe and built by Electric Boat in Connecticut. Plans call to build 12, at a cost $5 billion apiece, and no-one knows where those funds will come from. There's been talk of a supplemental Sea-Borne Deterrence Fund; but Air Force wants a similar budgetary trick for its nuclear systems.
- Bombers: Northrup Grumman is prime contractor on the new B-21 as well as the B-2 upgrade. Boeing is contractor for B1 and B52 upgrades.
- Long-Range Stand-Off cruise missiles: This is the other most contested of the new systems planned, with many experts calling it dangerous and unnecessary. Air Force has issued a call for bids for 1000+ missiles. Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin are expected to submit bids.
Introduction: In 1991, in response to the ongoing collapse of the Soviet Union, President George H. Bush ordered the withdrawal of all nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) from U.S. surface ships and submarines. In 2018 President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review proposed to redeploy SLCMs on Virginia-class attack submarines, saying they would provide the United States with “a needed non-strategic regional presence” that would address “the increasing need for flexible and low-yield options.”1 Congress subsequently approved $15.2 million in FY 2022 funding for the Navy’s new cruise missile and nuclear warhead.
In March 2022 President Biden transmitted a new classified Nuclear Posture Review to Congress that reportedly canceled the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile. In parallel, his proposed FY 2023 budget for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has no funding for the SLCM nuclear warhead. This has prompted some congressional pushback, with one suggested compromise being continuing modest research funding. But as a Congressional Research Service analysis put it: “The Navy indicated that the program was “cost prohibitive and the acquisition schedule would have delivered capability late to need.”
“…International treaties and consortiums discourage nuclear testing,” the firm said in a report summary. “This hampers the market growth.”
US President Joe Biden last week requested a record peacetime national defence budget, which would prioritise modernizing its nuclear “triad” of ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles.
The report predicted that demand for small nuclear warheads, which can be easily deployed through aircraft and land-based missiles, would fuel faster growth in these segments, although submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) accounted for a quarter of the market in 2020.
While North America dominated more than half the global market in 2020, the report predicted the fastest growth would come from the Asia-Pacific region on initiatives by India, Pakistan and China to bolster their nuclear arsenals.
“However, international treaties and consortiums discourage nuclear testing,” the firm said in a report summary. “This hampers the market growth.”
It predicted that the rising influence of non-nuclear proliferation treaties and national efforts should increase the number of warheads in storage or awaiting dismantlement.
Active weapons, however, accounted for the “lion’s share” – more than two-thirds – of the market in 2020, it said, due to investment in nuclear arsenals and new warhead purchases.
Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States at the start of the year issued a joint statement saying there could be no winners in a nuclear war and it must be avoided.
The White House’s new defense budget lavishes money on America’s nuclear weapons program in the name of competing with China and Russia. It’s totally unnecessary.
“Biden has scaled back his domestic ambitions even while pushing the defense budget upward and onward.”
President Joe Biden’s defense budget for 2023 is gargantuan. It comes to $813.3 billion, nearly $60 billion higher than the budget he requested a year ago for 2022. Just a few weeks ago, Congress passed a bill adding $25 billion to that earlier budget. Biden’s new budget, which he submitted on Monday, accepts the congressional hike as a baseline and raises the pot by another $32 billion.
To put this in perspective, Biden’s $813 billion exceeds President Donald Trump’s final defense budget by $75 billion—which, for a sense of proportion, is about 2.5 times what the government spends on Pell grants for low-income college students. It tops the amount that the Trump administration figured it would spend in 2023 by $40 billion.
U.S. nuclear weapons issues:
- In anticipation of the NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference that was to start January 4 the P-5 (original nuclear weapons powers U.S., Russia, China, France and U.K.) came out with an unbelievable collective statement on how they are in compliance with the NPT Article VI mandate to disarm. Then the Review Conference was indefinitely postponed because of omicron.
- Biden signed the FY 2022 Defense Authorization Act (DAA). Congress gave the Pentagon $24 billion more than Biden asked for. So much for ending endless wars. The DAA fully authorizes what the Biden Administration asked for National Nuclear Security Administration nuclear weapons programs, which increased Trump’s FY 2021 budget which saw a 25% from his FY 2002 budget. LANL is to get a cool billion in FY 2022 for expanded plutonium pit production alone.
- Still no appropriations. Second Continuing Resolution (CR) runs out in February.
- First anniversary of Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons January 22
FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act: The Bad News.
As Politico put it:
PROGRESSIVES’ PENTAGON POUNDING: … progressives barely put their stamp on Pentagon policy this go-round. Bipartisan provisions requiring women to register for the draft, cracking down on Saudi Arabia and imposing sanctions on Russia were nixed; legislation repealing outdated Iraq war authorizations fell by the wayside; reforms to the military justice system and efforts to combat extremism in the ranks were pared back; and a proposal to give Washington, D.C., control of its National Guard was dropped,” they wrote. Democrats hold power in the House, Senate and White House for the first time in more than a decade, yet the high-profile defense bill got more GOP votes than from Biden’s own party. As progressive lawmakers made their dissatisfaction with the bill’s high price tag clear, centrist Democrats knew they needed Republican support to pass the House and Senate.”
Progressives truly felt they had a historic chance to turn their priorities into policy, but the realities of a 50-50 Senate with no filibuster made that near impossible. And with midterms next year, it’s likely they missed their best chance.
Nuclear weapons: Congress added $500 million to Biden’s request for NNSA Total Weapons Activities, which was essentially Trump’s request to begin with. Trump’s Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and B83 (1.2 megatons) service life program were kept. $1.72 billion request for “Plutonium Modernization” authorized.
- However, the NDAA is authorization, not appropriations. The 2nd Continuing Resolution runs until February after which the appropriators will have to come up with something. There’s a chance that the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile and B83 sustainment program could be shot down. While those would be notable victories, they really only amount to damage control (i.e., rolling back two of Trump’s pet projects) as the $1.7 trillion modernization beast lumbers on.
The current Continuing Resolution keeping the government running expires 12/3. Another Continuing Resolution is likely.
The Pentagon has released a major threat assessment of China at https://media.defense.gov/2021/Nov/03/2002885874/-1/-1/0/2021-CMPR-FINAL.PDF.
Under “Nuclear Capabilities” it concludes:
► Over the next decade, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] aims to modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.
► The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.
► The PRC has possibly already established a nascent “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.
► New developments in 2020 further suggest that the PRC intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force.
This is bound to have a major influence on Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review, to be released in early 2022. China’s expansion of its nuclear weapons capabilities, along with U.S. and Russian “modernization” programs, may also be big issues at the January 2022 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference.
“Officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration have said the earlier estimate of Savannah River meeting its pit production target in 2030 was unrealistic and that it could take until 2035.
Meanwhile, the most recent cost estimate for bringing Savannah River’s pit plant online has swelled to $11 billion from $4.6 billion.”
A group of nuclear weapons managers agreed Tuesday that making more plutonium cores for warheads will be key to modernizing the nation’s arsenal as a deterrent against rival countries.
But during an online forum, a few of the managers who work at facilities with nuclear weapons programs also delved into a military leader’s assertion in recent months the U.S. is unable to produce a brand-new nuclear weapon, unlike Russia and China.
Peter Heussy, a defense consultant, asked the panel to interpret the comments by Adm. Charles Richard, head of U.S. Strategic Command, based on their work in the field.
“My thinking is: By policy we’re not supposed to be designing new [weapons]. We’re not being asked to do it, either,” said Mark Martinez, who oversees mission support and testing at the Nevada National Security Site.
The current focus is on life extension, Martinez said, referring to the program to replace or upgrade aging components, including the softball-sized plutonium cores — or pits — that detonate warheads.
Plans call for Los Alamos National Laboratory to produce 30 pits by 2026 and Savannah River Site in South Carolina to make 50 pits in the 2030s.
Last week, July 16 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear bomb explosion. Within another month, memorials and commemorations will be held for the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the U.S. bombed on 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. Although it was unknown to most residents of New Mexico until after the United States’ atomic bombing of Japan, the citizens and communities in the southern region of the state were in fact the first nuclear victims.
When the U.S. Army detonated an atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m., “its thunderous roar during the rainy season knocked people from breakfast tables in Tularosa and sent others on the Mescalero Apache reservation into hiding.” (axios.com) Hispanics and Mescalero Apache tribal members in New Mexico are working to pressure lawmakers to compensate those who have suffered extremely because of the experiment. Rare forms of cancer and other health problems have been discovered in those living near the site of the Trinity Test, and the vast, noxious consequences of this experiment have had lasting impact on now multiple, entire generations.
The National Nuclear Security Administration’s detailed fiscal year 2022 budget request was (partially) unveiled last week on Friday, May 28, in the evening before a long holiday weekend. The Biden Administration’s total NNSA FY22 budget request is just under $20 billion, requesting of $15.48 billion for NNSA “Total Weapons Activities” and following suit with Trump’s excessive nuclear weapons budget of $15.35 billion that Congress appropriated for FY 2021.
Of particular note in the budget request is that it will cost more than double what the National Nuclear Security Administration had previously estimated for the total of DOE’s Plutonium Bomb Plant construction at Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The facility would be a converted production plant for the fabrication of plutonium “pits,” the triggers for nuclear warheads. The cost for the plant has ballooned from the previous estimate of $4.6 billion to a now staggering $11.1 billion. What’s more, the schedule for the facility’s initial operation has slipped up to five years. The plans for the SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant have already run far over budget and fallen behind schedule, and “these troubling and potentially debilitating developments foreshadow problems to come to the challenging pit-production project,” according to the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch.
For use with DOE’s scheduled budget release on Friday May 28, 2021
For more information, key contacts are listed below.
The White House is releasing its detailed Fiscal Year 2022 budget on Friday, May 28. A so-called “skinny budget” was released on April 9 that increased Department of Energy (DOE) funding to $46.1 billion, which reportedly includes major new investments in clean energy and climate change abatement. That said, historically roughly 60% of DOE’s funding has been earmarked for nuclear weapons production and cleanup of Cold War wastes and contamination. The pending budget release will finally provide details on those programs.
Because the budget release is so late Congress has already announced that it can’t consider the annual Defense Authorization Act until September. Related appropriations bills will no doubt be delayed too. This means that the government will probably have to run on a Continuing Resolution(s) for much of FY 2022 (which begins October 1, 2021).
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability strongly opposed the massive 25% FY 2021 increase that the Trump Administration gave to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) nuclear weapons programs and proposed cuts to Department of Energy cleanup. In addition, DOE’s nuclear weapons and environmental management programs have been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List” for project mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ dollars for 28 consecutive years. Related, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released a report that projects a 28% increase in costs for so-called “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces that between the Defense Department and DOE is expected to cost around $1.7 trillion over 30 years.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a 34-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear weapons sites, will be analyzing the following critical issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.
On July 5, 2018, OREPA and Nuclear Watch New Mexico—along with many of you!—submitted formal comments on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s plan for the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN. The gist of our comments is that NNSA is required to prepare a new Environmental Impact Statement, or at least a thorough Supplemental EIS, and can’t move forward with the UPF bomb plant until they have done so.
The comments, which you can read or download here, now become part of the Administrative Record which the judge hearing our legal challenge will use to decide the case.
We believe the government’s attempt to rectify their past errors is way too little and way too late, and the Supplement Analysis has effectively strengthened our argument. In addition to the comments, we also submitted attachments, including expert declarations on the NNSA’s plans, the seismic risks they are overlooking, and the unsuitability of a piecemeal approach to planning at Y12. You can read or download the attachments here.
“The creation of a National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to pay for an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement could significantly alter the typically underfunded Navy shipbuilding account, while also establishing a precedent that other military services may attempt to leverage in years to come.”
“Both Russia and the United States are now officially and publicly using the other side as a justification for nuclear weapons modernization programs”
– Hans Kristensen, from The Intercept, 2/23/16