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Thursday, July 25, 2013


Weapons Complex Morning Briefing
July 23, 2013

Deputy 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.”

Carter’s 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 attack ourselves.”

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