Last week, millions of Americans were busy ‘flagsturbating’ to the latest American war porn, American Sniper. While they were distracted, the federal government was busy bolstering the war machinery that the film helps to glorify.
According to a new estimate published by the Congressional Budget Office last week, it will cost $348 billion over a decade for the United States to update its nuclear weapons. Should they do it, they will continue a stranglehold on one of the world’s biggest arsenals.
The report, entitled “Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2015 to 2024,” says the cost for 2015 to 2024 dropped from the 2014-2023 $355 billion estimate – that makes this year’s a bargain at $7 billion off!
According to the CBO, a designated “non-partisan” federal agency, the price tag is so high because current nuclear land, sea, and air-based platforms (the “triad”) are nearing the end of their “service lifetimes.” To update them, the Department of Defense would be responsible for $227 billion while the Department of Energy would cover $121 billion. The Center for Arms Control warns that over 30 years, it could cost 70 trillion to maintain the triad.
The undertaking of the projected $348 billion upgrades, should Congress choose to implement them, would amount to almost $35 billion a year. That’s over $95 million dollars a day spent on nuclear weapons alone (generously assuming the yearly cost will not rise with inflation and costs over the decade).
By comparison, in 2013 the US government spent 3 times on its overall military what the Chinese did on theirs ($613 billion vs. $171 billion) – in spite of the fact that China has more than 4 times the population of the US (1.3 billion vs. 321 million).
These costs come in addition to the borrowed trillions already wasted on illegal, dishonest wars.
The most telling component of the report is the CBO’s apparent options for dealing with aging nuclear weapons:
Over the next two decades, the Congress will need to make decisions about the extent to which essentially all of the U.S. nuclear delivery systems and weapons will be modernized or replaced with new systems.
The question is not whether or not to move toward a world free of nuclear threats, in spite of how often politicians pay lip service to peace. Rather, the question is how the government will ensure it retains its weapons. This is particularly hypocritical considering the United States consistently urges and threatens other nations to halt and dismantle their nuclear systems while still being the only country to have ever dropped a nuclear bomb (on civilians, no less).
The United States federal government and its cohorts have made their priorities clear: violence is valuable above all else and it is the duty of the citizens to fund it.
With Americans salivating at the military and now ranking terrorism as their biggest concern, it seems unlikely the perpetual drift toward empire will cease.
Unsurprisingly, there has been minimal media coverage of the overwhelmingly expensive costs to keep America’s nuclear program powerful. The stories are no longer “news.” As the opening paragraph of the CBO report explains with detachment,
Nuclear weapons have been a cornerstone of U.S. national security since they were developed during World War II. During the Cold War, nuclear forces were central to U.S. defense policy, resulting in the buildup of a large arsenal.