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The Military The Almighty Buck United States Technology

Cut Down On Nukes To Shave the Deficit 369

Hugh Pickens writes "Joe Cirincione writes in the Atlantic that the US government is set to spend almost $700 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, roughly as much as it spent on the war in Iraq over the last decade. Most of the money will be spent without any clear guidance on how many weapons we need and for what purpose. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we will need some to deter nuclear threats from others, but do we really need to duplicate the entire nuclear triad for another 50 years? 'The Pentagon budget includes funds to develop a new fleet of 12 nuclear-armed submarines with an estimated cost of $110 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Also planned is $55 billion for 100 new bombers, and a new missile to replace the recently upgraded 450 Minutemen III intercontinental ballistic missiles. ... The consensus among military officials and bipartisan security experts is that nuclear reductions enhance US national security,' writes Cirincione. As the Nuclear Posture Review says, 'Our most pressing security challenge at present is preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, for which a nuclear force of thousands of weapons has little relevance.'"
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Cut Down On Nukes To Shave the Deficit

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  • NASA could use some new RTGs

    Medical isotopes are in need as well. Maybe they can come with a small power plant or some process that uses the nuclear material

    • If the US Government is going to build 12 submarines anyways, I think they should be multi-purpose.

      A powerplant that can quickly go anywhere in the world could be really useful. I imagined using the navy's nuclear reactors to power bubblers to help the bacteria break down oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The catchy title was To Save the Gulf, Send the Enterprise [].

      Now the Enterprise isn't outfitted with bubblers, or much else besides the equipment needed for its usual duties of launching airplanes to dogfight with

  • 'The Pentagon budget includes funds to develop a new fleet of 12 nuclear-armed submarines with an estimated cost of $110 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Also planned is $55 billion for 100 new bombers

    Because those next-generation bombers and submarines can't possibly be used for anything other than nuclear warheads.

    • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )

      Because those next-generation bombers and submarines can't possibly be used for anything other than nuclear warheads.

      Well, design them for the mission they are needed for.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Boomers are boomers. You could use them as a very expensive way to launch cruise missles, but that is about it. The Bombers are useful for traditional ordinance though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      well the sub force exists largely just to hunt enemy subs(which have nukes) and to deploy revenge nukes. the intelligence work etc doable with them is just related to that. the subs don't exist even for putting up a naval blockade. as far as bombers.. well, you got some nice bombers already and some strike aircraft capable of carrying quite a bit of bombs, the force is big enough even for traditional carpet bombing. but of course with the subs the question is what's wrong with the old subs? that's a nationa

    • The phrase used was not "nuclear submarines." It was "nuclear-armed" submarines. That's pretty umambiguous.
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:23PM (#36778174)

    As long as nuclear weapons exist, we will need some to deter nuclear threats from others, but do we really need to duplicate the entire nuclear triad for another 50 years?

    That's why continued reductions treaties with Russia are important. Neither country is going to do this themselves. It's not as if both countries aren't actively reducing their arsenals.

    Regarding the expenditures on bombers and subs... The thing about those is you need to always be building one or the industry dies. You can build it very, very slowly, but you need to be making one at some minimum rate or you'll lose the huge investment you put into learning to build them in the first place. Aircraft carriers are similar. The problem is that when you do this, your development costs don't get spread out so the cost looks enormous - but you have to spend that money or get out of the sub/airplane/ship business altogether.

    There's an argument for that, but I don't think we're ready to give up our military power just yet.

  • That's dumb. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tmosley ( 996283 )
    That's just dumb. If you want to smash, rather than shaving the budget, you would buy more nukes, and nuke delivery systems, and withdraw all the troops we have stationed everywhere. We'd save a trillion dollars a year. You could use the proceeds from that to fund universal health care and a dozen missions to Mars. Or, you know, pay down the debt. Whatever.
    • That's just dumb.

  • I know a lot of the man power and costs is in keeping the weapons viable for use, but what would the cost to decommission them be? You cant just let them sit on the shelf, they have to be maintained or taken apart.
  • Left Out Reliability (Score:5, Informative)

    by coolmoose25 ( 1057210 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:29PM (#36778266)
    One of the big expenses is the reliability of the nuclear arsenal. Nuclear material is hot - radioactive - and that means it's also "disappearing" as it decays. Triggers, main charges, and other elements of a nuclear warhead do age and this needs to be addressed. We've done a lot of work with computer models since we're no longer willing to test fire any of these weapons, even underground. But this only goes so far, and if you ARE going to rely on those computer models, then you HAVE to make sure that what was modeled is actually what is IN those warheads. If we don't do this, it won't matter how many missiles and warheads we have. They won't be viewed as a credible threat if we can't show that they'll actually work. And all of this is in support of the strategy of deterrence, which seems to be our only strategy so far, since we're not willing to forcibly stop proliferation. Whether deterrence is even a viable strategy going forward is certainly up for debate. But I can tell you this. If North Korea or Iran end up nuking us somehow, we damn sure better be able to flatten those countries, or else we should get used to the idea of getting periodically nuked.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @04:33PM (#36779792)

      So as you note, testing is done with computers these days. The DoE has bigass supercomputers and keeps building new ones, a major reason is to accurately simulate (down to the atomic level) our nuclear weapons. Ok, well turns out those badass supercomputers are good at other kinds of simulations too, and get used for them. They aren't worthless, military only, things.

      All I'm saying is consider all angles. Part of that "savings" would be cutting the US's highest end supercomptuer program. Now of course you wouldn't have to cut it, you could keep that and use them just for other kinds of research, but then your savings are less because you still spend the billions on them.

      Always you need to look at the full impact of this. It is easy to look at something and say "If we cut it we save that much!" However consider what all you are cutting. You may find there is stuff in there you'd want to keep, and then your savings aren't quite what you claimed.

  • by the_raptor ( 652941 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:30PM (#36778274)

    WTF do people think all the START things are? It stands for STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The US and Russia have been cutting back their arsenals for more than twenty years. The reason there is huge upcoming expenditures being budgeted for is because the US nuclear arsenal is pretty much late 1980's vintage. Nuclear warheads don't stay viable forever, and planes and submarines wear out. Most of the expenditure is going to be on the planes and submarines, not Nuclear warheads, and those planes and submarines have non-nuclear warfare use

    The B-52 was designed as a nuclear bomber, but has probably dropped more conventional ordnance then all other aircraft combined ever. Most SSBNs around the world have been adapted to be capable of firing either non-nuclear IMRBM or non-nuclear cruise missiles. They aren't just sitting under the ice with a cargo of nukes waiting for the Russkis to push the button.

    The expensive thing isn't nuclear weapons, it is launch platforms and manpower. If you start cutting those heavily you may as well cut the carrier fleets and a few army divisions as well and accept not having the ability to fight three different wars at once.

    • by msobkow ( 48369 )

      But most of what they've "cut" was just decommissioning obsolete designs, while creating newer, more accurate, and more powerful weapons.

  • by crow_t_robot ( 528562 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:30PM (#36778284)
    Let's keep arguing about cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits while this $700 billion dollar waste of cash silently slips by!

    The distraction is working.
  • Resources are diminishing, and some nuclear powers have an rapidly expanding population of young men.

    So, that is something to keep in mind when discussing military issues.

    • The concept of MAD isn't going to go away anytime soon. So think about this. If we cut down on nukes, they will be replaced via biological agents. I'm not saying just the US, but other nations will do the same if they haven't already started to stockpile.

  • Subs - Even boomers have quite a few uses other than flinging nukes.
    Aircraft - Same thing. The B-2 has been successfully used in many conflicts, none of which were its original design purpose (penetrating Soviet airspace with a nuclear payload)
    Missiles - OK, hard to justify that one unless the article is missing something (like the missile being derived from an orbital launch vehicle, or developed with orbital launch as a secondary capability)

    We've got more than enough bombs, but as delivery systems age, t

    • Subs - Even boomers have quite a few uses other than flinging nukes.

      I should hope so, they've been around for decades, cost billions and have never actually fired a missile in anger.

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:34PM (#36778332)
    Look at your biggest expenditure and start shaving it off bit by bit. That gives you the best return for the least amount of pain - And in the US that would be 1% off the militaries budget equating to many more % off someone else's budget. However the US is very conflicted about its military and how it uses it, and how much is actually needed ("we aren't the worlds police, but we can't not play that role"). But the population in general seems to equate military spending with greatness ("we can't let those god damned commies/terrists/gays/foreigners sneak up on us, like they did last time") so I can't see then ever agreeing to cut military spending.
    • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @03:32PM (#36779154)

      Nice logic, but the military is only the 3rd largest piece of the US budget.

      The biggest part of the US budget is health care subsidies currently at $793 billion a year.

      The second largest part of the budget is social security currently at $701 billion a year.

      The military budget is currently at $689 billion a year.

      If we cut the $700 billion, 10 year nuclear program (which I think is a good idea), we would save ~$70 billion a year. Our deficit is on the order of $1 trillion a year. If we cut the entire military budget, we would still be running a yearly deficit. So yeah, we should start with the biggest pieces and start whittling down.

      This is not an argument for military spending. I agree that it's too high, we don't need 11 carriers for example, but we have to be honest with ourselves about the cost social programs.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @05:40PM (#36780486)

        You need to take a serious look at the value you're getting for your money. The US spends as much per capita on social programs as many countries that already have universal health care. Maybe capitalism isn't quite the mecca of efficiency it's supposed to be.

      • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @07:28PM (#36781436)

        The biggest part of the US budget is health care subsidies currently at $793 billion a year.

        That isn't even the whole of it. There are also the costs that individuals (or their employers) incur to acquire medical insurance. The overall price payed by americans for health coverage is staggering. I'm not sure where the money goes - insurance companies, drug companies, medical suppliers - but someone is getting their pockets filled.

        By comparison, Canada spends about 1/2* as much per capita on health care services while offering universal coverage. There are still problems with the Canadian system but at least people are not dying due to lack of coverage/services. *Note that with the fall of the American dollar, this amount will have increased.

        So the biggest economy in the world is the only advanced economy that doesn't offer universal health care. But what is really sad is what I hear in the American media - the fear-mongering from the Republican party is unbelievable. Those filled pockets must have some serious political connections to be able to spin such BS. Sad to think of all the people who buy into it - it's like shooting yourself in the foot.

        Ha, a visiting elderly American once said that she pitied me for being subjected to a socialist health care system. Really? You pity me? Wow, ignorance truly is bliss.

  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:38PM (#36778412)

    There are a lot of pockets to line before any of that money actually turns into rocket fuel.

  • by SleepyHappyDoc ( 813919 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:44PM (#36778520)

    Why don't they sell a few of them? I'm sure they could find a buyer in Iran or North Korea, and I bet they'd pay a lot.

  • So, like... they mean, forever then?

    Because let's face it... there's not a chance on this earth that every nuclear power going would just up and dismantle 100% of their nuclear arsenal. It wouldn't matter what we were facing... no disaster, no common threat... nothing.

    I mean, I suppose if some disaster comes along and we end up getting obliterated entirely (not merely facing inevitable extinction, but actually ending up that way), there's a good chance that the threat of nuclear terrorism could be eliminated along with our species...

    Until then... however... it ain't gonna happen. Of this, I am certain.

  • Eisenhower (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aazsst3756 ( 1248694 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @02:52PM (#36778630)
    "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron." ~Dwight D. Eisenhower "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without." ~Dwight D. Eisenhower Eisenhower was a great Republican, 5 star general, Supreme Commander, from the midwest with a lot of common sense.
    • Re:Eisenhower (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dara ( 119068 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @03:50PM (#36779342)

      Those are nice quotes. But can you defend Eisenhower presiding over the CIA when they overthrew democratic governments in Guatemala and Iran? Can you imagine what the Middle East would be like now if Iran had a democracy for the last 58 years? The people of Guatemala suffered a lot until the current period of democracy. Iran still hasn't recovered (they can only vote for candidates approved by unelected Mullahs, better than Saudi Arabia, but not democracy).

      I can't see the case for nuclear weapons anymore, so the less the better for me, and I don't want to spend a dime making new ones. If they want to spend some money shuffling things around and reprocessing so the 1,000 we keep are reliable, that's better than reports I've heard about what we're doing.

      I'm not convinced we ever needed them, but I can see the argument that MAD prevented direct conflict between the US and the USSR. But now, we'd be better off spending the money on making our country more economically competitive to start paying off some debt, or just use it to pay off debt.

  • Former presidents have warned us of such abuses of the Military Industrial Complex.
    Today the M.I.C has been painting itself into a smaller and smaller corner of which they cannot get out of without getting the wet paint of their lies all over themselves... and here is why...

    Population growth has a way of pressuring social change. It happened in what is described in metaphorical terms as the tower of babel, which is more and event happening around the world, each growing society in its own time. [] -n Julian Jaynes explains it as the break down of the bicameral mind to that of more than just awareness but consciousness. The use of higher level abstractions, introspection, the first recorded suicides, and the wrongful use of abstraction was discovered a tool of deception.

    The next event of social change was of moving from a limited mathematical symbol set of the roman numerals to the easier to use and more powerful Hindu Arabic decimal system with its zero place holder. the idea of nothing (the abstraction of zero) can have value was hard to comprehend.

    Today we are at another threshold of change due to population growth and communication technology.

    Of the near 7 billion people on this planet its becoming realized that its some fraction of 1% messing things up for the rest of us. Its becoming clear there are those who are psychologically unfit to command anyone. Verifiable psychopaths who pursue the increase in the military industrial complex with such tactics as invading a country base on a unverified claim and media hype and in the process killing over 100,000 civilians. Thsi done in teh name of protecting the freedoms of Americans while the same excuse is then being used by these psychopaths to strip teh very freedoms they claim to protect, away from Americans.

    Now if another country came to the US and killed 100,000 American civilians, would we hate them? Of course!!

    And this is how the psychopaths, like drug addicts, try to verify and validate their disease. Making enemies, not friends.
    But today the mass majority of the population knows, all but these few, share in doing the same daily things called living...
    Efforts like Wikileaks only helps to expose the dillusions of power these few have and how sick they really are.
    Money is an abstraction. We do not need it to be productive, we only need man power, knowledge and natural resources, of which we have plenty.
    Knowledge begets knowledge and waring knowledge begets more waring knowledge... and like wise, productive knowledge begets more of its own...

    The waring mindset is going to destroy itself...

  • Congress critter discussion:

    --sarcasm mode on--
    Of course we need all of those things in the budget for the next X number of years. It's either that or lay off the trained force that builds the darn things and scale back the number of defense spending related jobs in my home state. And those people vote, darn it, and they by golly are not going to vote for me if I cost them their jobs by doing the RIGHT THING!!

    * Rubber Stamp *

    ---sarcasm mode off---

    Any questions about why we need these weapons now?
  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @03:33PM (#36779164) Homepage []
    "Nuclear weapons are ironic because they are about using space age systems to fight over oil and land. Why not just use advanced materials as found in nuclear missiles to make renewable energy sources (like windmills or solar panels) to replace oil, or why not use rocketry to move into space by building space habitats for more land? "

    Maybe ironic humor is our last, best hope against the war machines?

  • by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Friday July 15, 2011 @04:47PM (#36779922) Homepage Journal

    How about we just say no....that way we save 700 billion dollars over 10 years, and force not only the recycling of our weapons, but also maybe come back from our economic crisis and recover a bit of dignity as a nation being strict on development of nuclear arms...practice what we preach, right?
    Obama, if your listening, get a clue, tell them hell no!!!

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen