Several months ago we released a report, Resolving Ambiguity, estimating the cost of the US’ nuclear arsenal. The goal was to help ground a very charged debate, in part with this finding:
Official estimates relying on a narrow definition of the nuclear enterprise, or even of strategic nuclear offensive forces, understate the actual costs the United States spends on nuclear weapons without settling once and for all what is the single right cost of the nuclear enterprise.
To date, this goal is being achieved. Take the opening remarks of Senator Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate’s Energy and Water appropriations panel, at its July 25th hearing:
Let me just put forward a few points on the current plan for nuclear weapons modernization. It calls for $215 billion on nuclear weapons and delivery systems in the next 10 years. According to a recent Stimson Center report, the United States already spends about $31 billion -- this is a secure number -- $31 billion a year to maintain nuclear weapons capabilities.
Leading the debate toward this sort of a common factual grounding is different, of course, than actually resolving it. Nuclear programs were debated as hotly as ever over this summer’s appropriations season. And now issues like the nuclear certification of the new long-range strike bomber stand to be totally rehashed – last week the congressional leadership effectively hit the reset button by agreeing in principle to a 6-month resolution continuing 2012’s budget decisions.
As this appropriations debate resumes next spring, look for Resolving Ambiguity to continue providing the common budgetary ground.