Weapons Complex Morning Briefing
July 23, 2013
DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: NUCLEAR CUTS DON'T EQUAL BIG SAVINGS
Defense Secretary Ash Carter waded into a long-running debate about how
much the U.S. spends on its nuclear arsenal, suggesting late last week
that the reductions proposed by the Obama Administration won’t generate
big savings. Carter said at the Aspen Security Forum that the Pentagon
spends about $16 billion a year to maintain the U.S. nuclear
deterrent—totals that don’t include the NNSA’s nearly $8 billion annual
weapons account. “It is not a big swinger of the budget,” Carter said.
“You don’t save a lot of money
by having arms control and so forth. But the reason you do it is
because these things—though they don’t cost that much—are the most
awesome and terrible inventions of humankind. … They are things always
to remember are part of our arsenal that deserves our most careful
thought and treatment and responsibility. But they’re not the answer to
our budget problem. They’re just not that expensive.”
comments drew the ire of arms control advocates, who accused him of
“low-balling” the cost of the U.S. nuclear deterrent which some reports
have pegged as much higher. The high end of the estimates came in a
report authored by the Ploughshares Fund that lumps in nuclear cleanup,
nonproliferation and missile defense costs, and which suggests the costs
are more than $60 billion a year. “Sharp reductions in nuclear weapons
will make us safer while saving tens of billions of dollars in the next
decade and beyond,” Bill Hartung, the Director of the Arms and Security
Project at the Center for International Policy wrote in the Huffington
Post yesterday. “That should be a no-brainer, particularly for someone
with his intellectual credentials.”
While President Obama has
outlined his plans for reductions, Russia has been hesitant to go along
with the reductions, but Carter emphasized the importance of pursuing
reductions through negotiations with Moscow, which he suggested could
aid efforts to curb proliferation around the globe. “That’s what we
want, because those weapons and those materials might actually be used
against us,” he said. “So if our own reductions and being prepared for
our own reductions can be a catalyst for nuclear security more broadly,
that’s a good thing, and that’s what the president wants. And you miss
that opportunity if you just do it yourself, because we’re not going to
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