The US Is Stockpiling Nuclear Arms, and the Cost Is Astonishing, by Harry Blain

Nuclear poker is a very expensive game. From Harry Blain at antiwar.com:

We’re spending $1.2 trillion on weapons that invariably make the world a more dangerous place

Overwhelmed with stories of high-level indictments, intrigues, investigations, and scandals, the American public can be forgiven for missing revelations about an issue of some importance: our nuclear weapons.

Thanks to an October 31 report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), we now have a 30-year outline of both the kinds of destructive weaponry we are buying, and how much it is going to cost. There are good reasons to be worried.

“A pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”

How much exactly? $1.2 trillion in all. Even spread over three decades, that’s a big investment.

Per year, it could pay for over half of Russia’s military budget, five Environmental Protection Agencies, or at least three “beautiful” walls on the U.S.-Mexico border.

It’s an especially big investment for something you hope to never use. Nuclear weapons aren’t cheap: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of maintaining just the existing U.S. nuclear forces will be close to $800 billion; the shiny new stuff will be another $400 billion. “Many of today’s nuclear weapons systems were designed and built decades ago,” the CBO notes, “and are nearing the end of their service life.”

In a narrow sense, this seems sensible enough: Aging nuclear weapons infrastructure can lead to things like command and control systems running on floppy disks and a higher risk of security breaches. If you are going to insist on possessing the world’s most lethal weapon, you should look after it.

Nonetheless, as Kingston Reif of the Arms Control Association put it, the “stark reality underlined by CBO is that unless the US government finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the nuclear weapons spending plan inherited by the Trump administration will pose a crushing affordability problem.”

“Uniquely destabilizing”

The New York Times headline on the matter – “Trump Plans for Nuclear Arsenal Require $1.2 Trillion, Congressional Review States” – is either an innocent mistake or a misleading rhetorical sleight of hand. It implies, falsely, that this costly program belongs to the 45th president, even though the first paragraph of the CBO report explicitly states that it refers to “the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request.”

This is not a trivial point.

Even if, like many Americans, you trust Barack Obama’s judgment more than Donald Trump’s, you need to ask the deeper questions: Do I want anypresident to preside over such a vast nuclear arsenal? Could even the most sober and intelligent commander-in-chief make one catastrophic error in judgment? Are there certain weapons that are inherently more dangerous than others, regardless of who has the authority to push the button?

To continue reading: The US Is Stockpiling Nuclear Arms, and the Cost Is Astonishing

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