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U.S. nuclear arsenal upgrade tab: $355 billion

While all the Washington media are abuzz with discussions of financial crises, the extension of unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed and the crises associated with Obamacare, no one seems to have noticed that President Obama plans to spend hundreds of billions on upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Hiroshima Marks the 68th Anniversary of Atomic Bomb
Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

During his various speeches around the world, including the Berlin speech in the attached video, President Obama pledged to work to reduce nuclear weapons around the world. In fact, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires the big powers to work to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

We normally only hear about the part of NPT that commits members who do not have nuclear weapons not to develop any. But, another aspect of the NPT is that the countries that do have nuclear weapons have made a commitment to attempt to eliminate all their nuclear weapons, something that they are not doing at all.

Instead, the entire focus of the world has been to prevent Iran, which does not even have any nuclear weapons by all accounts, from even having a peaceful nuclear program. It is only lately that the U.S. has hinted that Iran may be allowed to have a limited enrichment capability, while the U.S. has more than 5,000 nuclear weapons itself. The inventory of known nuclear weapons around the world is as follows:

  • China: About 240 total warheads.
  • France: Fewer than 300 operational warheads.
  • Russia: Approximately 1,480 deployed strategic warheads [1]. The Federation of American Scientists estimates Russia has another 1,022 nondeployed strategic warheads and approximately 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads. Additional thousands are awaiting dismantlement.
  • United Kingdom: Fewer than 160 deployed strategic warheads, total stockpile of up to 225.
  • United States: Approximately 5,113
  • India: Up to 100 nuclear warheads.
  • Israel: Between 75 to 200 nuclear warheads.
  • Pakistan: Between 90 to 110 nuclear warheads.

The U.S. has signed three Start treaties, a Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) and an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) with the Soviet Union and Russia. Yet, each side still has thousands of nuclear weapons. Now, President Obama is proposing huge expenditures of funds to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal instead of trying to eliminate them.

As reported by Reuters, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO),

The Obama administration's plans for the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including modernization of bombs, delivery systems and laboratories, will cost the country about $355 billion over the next decade.

The question arises why should such a huge sum be expended on a weapon system that will likely never be used? What is the threat that justifies such expenditure of funds?

The question is extremely relevant in view of the fact that there is an enormous budget deficit, unemployment still hovers around 7%, the country's infrastructure is in dire straits, and "14.5 percent of U.S. households—nearly 49 million Americans, including 15.9 million children—struggle to put food on the table." Have President Obama and Congress completely lost their sense of proportions in establishing priorities for the future of the country?