Back in May, Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, managed to acknowledge and then gloss over the ambiguities of nuclear weapons costs in almost the same breath:
There’s broad disagreement about how much the nuclear enterprise costs. Now I can point to Global Strike Command and I can tell you that Air Force Global Strike Command has an annual budget of about $4.8 billion. That seems like a lot, but when you get the ICBMs, you get that strategic stability, and you get dual-capable bombers for $4.8 billion a year, and that’s less than one percent of the Department of Defense budget.
As we pointed out in our recent report, Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons, numbers like those offered by Lt. Gen. Kowalski are not as clear-cut as they might seem. While $4.8 billion might be an overestimate by including conventional missions performed by dual-capable bombers, such estimates don’t include the costs that nuclear weapons add for command and control, tanker aircraft, airlift, recruitment, training, and some other personnel costs. By highlighting these issues and breaking down costs as much as possible, we hope our report adds some clarity to a muddled issue.