Home

Underreported: Nukes cost U.S. $52 billion last year

A new study revealed that the United States spent more than $52 billion last year on nuclear weapons and related programs.

The study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that U.S. nuclear weapons spending — excluding classified programs — makes up 10 percent of the total defense budget, consumes 67 percent of the Department of Energy’s budget, and exceeds the total amount spent on international diplomacy and foreign aid, which is $39.5 billion. It also exceeds spending on technology, general science and space, which is $27.4 billion.

The report concluded that only 1.3 percent of the total amount was directed toward preparing for a nuclear or radiological attack, while 56 percent is devoted to maintaining and upgrading the current U.S. nuclear arsenal. $5 billion was used for nonproliferation, elimination, prevention and securing efforts.

The allocation of resources and lack of accurate accounting leaves the “impression that the United States is more interested in preserving and upgrading its nuclear arsenal than in reducing and eliminating the growing threats of nuclear proliferation and limited nuclear or radiological attack,” according to a study summary.

Advocacy groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) are distressed by the study’s findings.

“Nuclear weapons pose the most serious threat to human life,” Cherie Eichholz, executive director of Washington PSR, wrote in an e-mail. “The numbers are highly disturbing, as is the fact that less than 10 percent of the $52 billion went toward slowing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology.”

While national groups like PSR have been working toward disarmament for years, nuclear weapons and deterrence policies have recently come under scrutiny from high-level planners.

Three retired senior military officers in the UK recently penned an op-ed in the London Times opposing their government’s move to upgrade its Trident nuclear weapons program, stating that the country’s nuclear deterrent was “virtually irrelevant.”

“Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently, or are likely to, face — particularly international terrorism,” they wrote.

Complete nuclear disarmament, an idea previously dismissed as “radical,” has recently gained support in the mainstream from establishment journals like Foreign Affairs and the Economist to former high-level Cold War planners such as Robert McNamara, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn.

“Current U.S. security policies do not reflect underlying public opinion,” said John Steinburner of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.

Large percentages of the world’s population, ranging from 62 to 93 percent across the 20 countries surveyed, favor “eliminating all nuclear weapons,” including 77 percent in the United States and 69 percent in Russia, according to a poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

“Ultimately the people will need to demand that U.S. policies be changed and the more who are working toward that end, the faster it will happen,” Eichholz wrote.

Reach columnist Aditya Ganapathiraju at news@dailyuw.com.

Please read our Comment policy.