Congressional auditors say official estimates are ignoring key expenses for the U.S. nuclear force, such as costs of overhauling missiles and aircraft.
The Defense and Energy departments indicated that they planned to spend roughly $263.8 billion on the atomic arsenal over the coming decade, but their projections omitted significant items while obscuring “assumptions and limitations,” according to a Tuesday report by the Government Accountability Office.
The investigators singled out the Air Force, in part, for listing planned updates to the intercontinental ballistic missile and strategic bomber fleets as “zero-cost” projects in the covered 10-year period. The service is seeking $914 million in fiscal 2015 for designing a new nuclear-capable aircraft, and is still examining possible options for the future of the ICBM force.
The Defense Department should supply at least “preliminary” estimates of all work to maintain and refurbish the U.S. nuclear deterrent, so that budget planners in Congress are “not left to speculate,” the auditors argued in their assessment. The authors looked at where the nuclear-arms cost projections stood as of last July.
The Pentagon accepted a GAO call — similar to a request put to the Energy Department in December — to provide “a range of potential 10-year budget estimates” for their nuclear-arms initiatives if more exact figures are unavailable.
The report’s authors also asserted that the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration would need more money than it expects for refurbishing cruise- and ballistic-missile warheads through fiscal 2018.
“An NNSA official told us that the agency shifted funding within its budget estimates for these two programs beyond fiscal year 2019 to stay within [White House] guidelines,” the assessment states.
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"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."
President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.
In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."
President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.