An 18-year spending outlook for U.S. nuclear arms has shot up by $27.1 billion, and costs could rise further still, congressional auditors said this week.
Investigators found the increase by comparing the Obama administration’s latest cost estimate for maintaining and updating U.S. nuclear weapons over a set period — fiscal years 2014 through 2031 — to the U.S. estimate from two years ago for the same timeframe, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.
The National Nuclear Security Administration blamed the uptick from in part on a change in its calculation method. The agency — a semiautonomous arm of the Energy Department — noted that its projection from fiscal 2012 relied on out-of-date data based on the now-defunct Reliable Replacement Warhead program, auditors wrote in the assessment.
GAO auditors said a schedule adjustment also contributed to the cost jump, which boosted anticipated stockpile expenditures for the 18-year period from $46 billion to $73.1 billion. The Obama administration moved up plans to begin modernizing nuclear warheads for the Air Launched Cruise Missile seven years sooner — in 2024 instead of 2031 — bringing more of the associated costs into the time range under scrutiny.
The estimate for overall NNSA spending during the same period increased by just $19 billion, according to GAO auditors. They variation, they wrote, is due to decreases in the agency’s projected spending on other agency activities, such as maintenance of the nuclear arsenal’s supporting infrastructure.
They noted, though, that the agency’s estimate leaves out “most of the budget estimates” for two pricey initiatives: constructing a new enriched-uranium processing plant in Tennessee, and sustaining plutonium capabilities long tied to a proposed facility that now faces cancellation.
“NNSA plans to construct these facilities or alternatives to the facilities and, as a result, NNSA’s budget estimates for the infrastructure area are not fully aligned with its modernization plans and likely underestimate the amount of funding that will be needed in future years.
The report notes several factors that could further shift NNSA cost estimates in coming years, including the agency’s failure to account in its projections to date for budget cuts mandated under the 2011 Budget Control Act. Those “sequestration” reductions would crimp nuclear-weapons spending if they remain in place, the document says.
Its authors noted two other variables that could increase spending: a possible rise in expenses from contractor retirement funds, and “cost savings” built into budget estimates without full assessments of how to achieve them.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
What We're Following See More »
"Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.
French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children."
California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton today, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." While praising Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, Brown said "Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee. ... This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun."
In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”