Nuclear Modernization


What is the plan to modernize nuclear weapons?

Despite decreases in the overall number of nuclear weapons during the administrations of every President since President Johnson, new nuclear weapons continue to be created. President Obama has approved an effort to modernize nuclear weapons, the facilities that create them, and the bombers, submarines, and silos that deliver them.

New weapons include guided nuclear cruise missiles with variable payloads and ICBMs.

New facilities include renovations to a plutonium processing plant in New Mexico, building a high-explosives pressing facility in Texas, and constructing a highly enriched uranium processing plant in Tennessee.

New delivery mechanisms include 12 submarines, up to 100 bombers, and 400 land-based missiles.


What’s wrong with modernization?

Source: Arms Control Association

First, the cost is extremely high. The plan described above is projected to cost over $1 trillion over the next thirty years. Cost overruns and delays could cause that figure to rise. It is unlikely that the current level of funding for the Pentagon will be sufficient to cover the cost.

Second, new weapons short circuit deterrence by increasing the likelihood of use in combat. The increased precision and decreased payloads of these weapons make a decision to deploy them in combat thinkable. Nuclear cruise missiles are particularly pernicious. Today, only the U.S., France, and Russia have them in their arsenals. The U.S. plan to create 1,000 of these missiles shuts the door on the possibility of a global ban.

Third, modernization sends the wrong message to other nations. Russia and China have announced plans to expand their nuclear arsenals in response to U.S. modernization plans. Rather than doubling down on a nuclear future, the United States should constructively engage other nations and seek mutual disarmament.

What’s the alternative to modernization?

Rather than spending billions of dollars on new weapons, facilities, and vehicles, all three could be gradually decommissioned to reduce the total size of the nuclear force. Money could be redirected to reducing recent increases in housing costs for active duty military personnel or improving healthcare for America’s veterans.

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Read more about Nuclear Modernization:

As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, Smaller Leaves Some Uneasy

Mr. President, Kill the Cruise Missile

Overkill: The Case Against a New Nuclear-Armed Cruise Missile

U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms

Is the Pentagon's Budget About To Be Nuked?