It's time to start asking difficult questions about our military strategy and defense spending Should we endorse submarine- and sea-launched low-yield weapons and/or a nuclear modernization program like the one outlined in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and the most recent Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission?  Or, do we really even need the New START limit of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments; 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments; and 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments — when it takes a fraction of that to blow any country off the face of the earth?

Really think about that last sentence for a second.  There are 197 sovereign countries in the entire world. Our total nuclear inventory is 5,428 (this includes warheads in the military stockpile as well as retired, but still intact, warheads in queue for dismantlement).  If you take only the 1,964 warheads in our Military Stockpile — defined as stockpiled warheads, including deployed and reserve warheads — we could literally blow up every single country on earth 10 times!  Okay, some countries may take more than one bomb to get the job done, but you get our point.

Contrary to what some in Washington believe, we don't have a bottomless bank account when it comes to military spending.  The military should never be immune to thoughtful spending and strict fiscal accountability — and that statement does not make us soft on defense, disloyal to the military, or unpatriotic in any way.  What it makes us is responsible realists.  Going forward our military strategy must be forward-thinking, innovative and, above all, crafty.  We must, as five-star Army general and president of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower advised, "learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."

 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that "existing plans for U.S. nuclear forces would cost $400 billion over the 2017–2026 period — $52 billion more than CBO’s 2015 estimate for the 2015–2024 period, largely because modernization programs will be ramping up (read the entire report here)."  The Brookings Institution found that: "From 1940 through 1996, we spent nearly $5.5 trillion on nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs, in constant 1996 dollars.  If we could represent $5.8 trillion as a stack of dollar bills, it would reach from the Earth to the Moon and nearly back again, a distance of more than 459,000 miles."

This is way, WAY too much money to be spending on this.  Throwing a bunch of money at a million different things to see what sticks  as we have been doing since the 9/11 attacks  is not going to cut it anymore.  Either is relying on the threat of a ridiculously gigantic arsenal of big, scary bombs.  The my bomb is bigger than your bomb strategy needs to be replaced desperately (read more here). 

 

Evidence:

United States.  Office of the Secretary of Defense.  "Nuclear Posture Review."  February 2018

"Providing for the Common Defense:  The Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission."

"How Many Countries Are There In The World?"  World Atlas.  4 Jan 2018

Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris.  "Status of World Nuclear Forces."  Federation of American Scientists.  4 Jan 2018

Congressional Budget Office.  "Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2026."  February 2017

Stephen I. Schwartz.  "The Hidden Costs Of Our Nuclear Arsenal:  Overview of Project Findings."  The Brookings Institution.  30 June 1998