Nuclear ‘Modernization’

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. 

Background

A Rough Breakdown of the Trillion Dollar Cost of Modernization

1/3 NNSA

The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy

Warhead Production

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

Warhead Production and 'Life Extension Programs'

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.

RECENT UPDATES

Trump will seek 20% budget boost for nukes, says Inhofe

This “boost” will surely be reflected in the FY 2021 budget to be released February 10. The nuclear weapons increase is believed to be for new warheads (so-called Life Extension Programs) and expanded plutonium pit production. To pay for it, nonproliferation, dismantlement and cleanup programs are likely at risk.

BY: JOE GOULD | defensenews.com

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks during a meeting with Republican members of Congress and Cabinet members in the White House on June 20, 2018. At left is Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON ― U.S. President Donald Trump has settled an internal battle over whether to seek $20 billion for the federal agency that maintains America’s weapons, or less money, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., confirmed Tuesday.

The president will ask for the $20 billion.

The decision came after the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, agitated internally in favor of boosting the budget for nuclear weapons modernization in fiscal 2021 ― a position later backed by Inhofe and other congressional Republicans.

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Watchdog Groups Claim Nuclear Agency is Moving Forward to Manufacture New Plutonium Bomb Cores in Violation of National Environmental Law and an Existing Court Order

Natural Resources Defense Council
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Savannah River Site Watch
Tri-Valley CAREs
The Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has formally announced that it is proceeding with aggressive plans to expand the production of plutonium pits without required nation-wide “programmatic” public review. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Savannah River Site Watch and Tri-Valley CAREs assert this is in direct violation of the legal requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act and a 1998 court order that stipulates that DOE must prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” (PEIS) when it plans to produce more than 80 pits per year. Plutonium pits are the radioactive cores or “triggers” of nuclear weapons.

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Pope Frances Calls for Nuclear Weapons Abolition – – Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese Likely Has Largest Presence of Nuclear Weapons in the World

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 24, 2019

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Pope Francis called for the global abolition of nuclear weapons while paying homage to the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those two cities were both destroyed by atomic weapons designed and produced by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, located in northern New Mexico’s Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese.

The Holy Father declared:

“With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home. The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago. We will be judged on this. Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.  How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?”

Two of the U.S.’ three nuclear weapons laboratories, the Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, are located within the Santa Fe Catholic Archdiocese. Together the two labs spend $4 billion per year on core nuclear weapons design, testing and production programs. In addition, up to 2,500 nuclear weapons are estimated to be held in strategic reserve at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex, less than two miles south of the Albuquerque International Airport. That complex is probably the largest repository of intact nuclear weapons in the country and perhaps the world.Continue reading

Calling the National Nuclear Security Administration's latest Record of Decision (Federal Register, October 4, 2019) for the Continued Operation of the Y-12 National Security Complex , "an obvious attempt by the government to deliberately circumvent this Court's ruling," the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the Natural Resources Defense Council and four individual co-plaintiffs today filed a Motion to Enforce the judgment handed down in federal court in September by Chief United States District Judge Pamela Reeves.

"Within hours of the Judge's September ruling, NNSA told reporters that it would keep right on doing what it was doing, including building the UPF bomb plant. Then they published the new Record of Decision which is a direct challenge to the Court—it says they have decided they will comply with the Court's order at some uncertain date in the future, and in the meantime, it's business as usual. We went to court in the first place, because 'business as usual' was violating the law." — OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison

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Quotes

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

There’s one role- and only one role- for nuclear weapons, and that’s deterrence. We cannot, must not, will not ever countenance their actual use. There’s no such thing as limited nuclear war, and for the Pentagon’s advisory board to even suggest such a thing is deeply troubling.

– Senator Diana Feinstein