NNSA Outlines Price Tag Of '3+2' Vision For Future Of Nuclear Stockpile
Weapons Complex Monitor
June 19, 2013
the Obama Administration’s “3+2” vision for the future of the nuclear
stockpile could cost more than $65 billion through Fiscal Year 2038,
according to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s recently
released Fiscal Year 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan. But
while arms control experts have scoffed at the high price tag, the
Administration says the approach is designed to save money in the long
run. The “3+2” approach was approved late last year by the Nuclear
Weapons Council and includes the production by FY 2038 of three
interoperable ballistic missile warheads and two air-delivered systems: a
nuclear capable cruise missile and the B61 gravity bomb. But only this
week have the potential costs of the approach been broached publicly. On
top of the NNSA’s estimated $8 billion price tag for the ongoing B61
refurbishment (other estimates suggest the cost could actually exceed
$10 billion), the W78/W88-1 refurbishment could cost more than $14
billion. A second interoperable warhead projected to be the W87/W88
could cost more than $13 billion, and a third interoperable warhead
involving the W76-1 could cost around $12 billion. A refurbished cruise
missile warhead is estimated to cost close to $12 billion, and other
refurbishment work on a follow-on B61 life extension program (which
would start in FY 2033) as well as refurbishment work on the W88 to
replace its neutron generator and ongoing work on the W76-1 contribute
to the overall life extension costs.
The NNSA also emphasized
that the costs are dependent on other efforts to modernize the weapons
complex and maintain the nation’s nuclear know-how. “When fully
implemented, the ‘3+2’ strategic vision will reduce stockpile
maintenance costs while maintaining strategic flexibility and offering
the potential to consider decreasing the size of the stockpile hedge
without increasing the risk,” the NNSA said in the plan. In the
near-term, the NNSA is planning to undertake refurbishment work on the
W76-1, B61, W78/W88-1 interoperable warhead, cruise missile warhead, and
the W88 ALT 370 over the next decade, beginning work on the cruise
missile warhead refurbishment in FY 2015. “This very aggressive plan
will place most of the nuclear weapons stockpile in some phase of life
extension in the present decade,” the NNSA said. “This work is
absolutely essential and must be accomplished while maintaining the
stockpile and continuing stewardship-based surveillance.” The extent of
the work on the NNSA’s plate, and the price tag, is likely to draw
increased scrutiny from Congress, said Kingston Reif, the director of
Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and
Non-Proliferation. “The sticker shock is just incredible,” Reif said.
“You have to look at this in the context of NNSA being unable to
accurately project costs historically. If this is their opening bid and
previous history is any indication, this could be two to three times the
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Thursday, June 20, 2013
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