The projected cost of modernizing the U.S. nuclear force is escalating, including billions of dollars more to operate nuclear-armed submarines and to update Energy Department nuclear weapons laboratories and production facilities, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
Critics of nuclear modernization are likely to seize on the new figures to bolster their argument for more modest upgrades.
The nonpartisan CBO said Monday that operating and modernizing the nuclear force will cost $634 billion in the 2021-2030 period. That is an update to CBO’s previous estimate of $494 billion, which covered a different 10-year period, 2019 to 2028. Most of the $140 billion increase reflects the fact that the new estimate covers a different, more expensive period in the development and fielding of a new generation of nuclear weapons, as well as inflation.
The effort to modernize the nuclear force, which began under the Obama administration and was advanced by the Trump administration, is generally supported by Congress, although some lawmakers are critical of the enormous costs.
The extent of President Joe Biden’s commitment to the nuclear modernization project that began during his time as vice president may be reflected in the 2022 budget his administration is scheduled to send to the Congress on Friday.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is a longstanding critic of nuclear weapons modernization, said in a statement Monday that Biden has an opportunity to scale back the program and save billions.