U.S. Has Spent $5.8 Trillion on Nuclear Arms Since 1940

peace through reason (prop1@prop1.org)
Wed, 01 Jul 1998 08:57:17 -0400

Hooray for Brookings Institute's new book "Atomic Audit" -- this figure's=
 high enough to impact the most jaded taxpayer....  Hope you'll use this,=
 and tell folks about HR-827, which seeks to use nuclear weapons funds=
 instead to clean up the mess and convert the nuclear (and eventually other=
 arms) industries.

U.S. Has Spent $5.8 Trillion on Nuclear Arms Since 1940, Study Says

              By Walter Pincus

              Washington Post Staff Writer

              Wednesday, July 1, 1998; Page A02=20

              Since 1940, the United States has spent $5.8 trillion on

              nuclear weapons programs, more than on any single

              program except Social Security, according to a study

              billed as the first comprehensive audit of the country's

              effort to build a nuclear arsenal.

              The study, released yesterday by the Brookings

              Institution, ranked the expenditures leading to the

              production of nuclear explosives third over the last 5 1/2

              decades, behind other defense spending ($13.2 trillion)

              and Social Security ($7.9 trillion). Nuclear weapons

              ranked just ahead of welfare payments ($5.3 trillion) and

              interest on the national debt ($4.7 trillion).

              The audit, which calculated costs for nuclear research,

              development, deployment, command and control,

              defenses and dismantlement, was not undertaken to

              determine whether the U.S. nuclear force was worth the

              expenditure, said Stephen I. Schwartz, a guest scholar at

              Brookings and chairman of the four-year project. Rather

              it was designed to set the stage for "an honest and fully

              informed debate to begin."

              However, the study suggests that the price tag of the

              nuclear program was allowed to escalate in part because

              the public and Congress were not aware of the overall

              costs. Schwartz wrote in the study that the "impetus to

              manufacture and deploy large numbers of nuclear

              weapons gathered strength because nuclear weapons

              were considered less expensive than conventional

              forces." Had the true costs been known, which would

              have disproved that assumption, Schwartz continued,

              "there almost certainly would have been a debate about

              the wisdom" of the continued buildup of nuclear


              Paul Warnke, head of the Arms Control and

              Disarmament Agency in the Carter administration, who

              was aware of the Brookings study, disagreed. "I don't

              think it would have made that much difference if the

              American people knew the cost of nuclear weapons," he

              said. "The people were scared of the Russian threat and

              would have spent whatever it took. . . . They thought they

              were buying an insurance policy and didn't care about

              the premium."

              Still, the Brookings study indicates the degree to which

              the nuclear buildup outran public understanding. It shows

              that when Defense Secretary Robert McNamara declared

              in 1964 that a total nuclear force equivalent to 400

              megatons (equal to 400 million tons of TNT) would have

              been enough for mutually assured destruction with the

              Soviet Union, the U.S. stockpile already totaled 17,000


              One of the study's initial findings was that only 7 percent

              of the total cost for the weapons went for development

              and manufacture of the actual warheads. Deployment of

              weapons systems, such as bombers and missiles, and the

              infrastructure to facilitate their use made up 86 percent

              of the expenses, while much of the rest went for cleanup.

              "In the end," Schwartz said, "cleanup costs may be as

              much as the weapons cost in the first place."

              Richard Haass, head of the Brookings national security

              program, said the study had implications for India and

              Pakistan as those two countries pursue their nuclear

              programs. The hidden costs brought together in the audit

              show those two countries that they "cannot have a fully

              developed program on the cheap," Haass said.

              John Pike, director of the Space Policy Project of the

              Federation of American Scientists and a co-author of the

              study, said that if the Indian and Pakistani governments

              emulate the Chinese in having a deterrent nuclear

              strategy, their overall costs would be equivalently much

              less than those of the United States, which sought not just

              to deter an attack, but to maintain the ability to retaliate

              after a massive strike.

              The study fuels criticism of a lack of accountability over

              the years both within successive administrations and on

              Capitol Hill for spending on nuclear weapons programs.

              "While the costs of individual programs were debated

              from time to time, the near total absence of data

              documenting either annual or cumulative costs of the

              overall effort made effective democratic debate and

              oversight all but impossible," according to Michael

              Armacost, president of Brookings and a former

              undersecretary of state.

              The study notes that spending on the current nuclear

              arsenal has stood at about $35 billion annually, or

              roughly 15 percent of the total defense budget. Although

              new weapons are no longer being produced, the

              stockpile has the equivalent explosive force of about

              120,000 Hiroshima bombs, according to Schwartz. He

              noted that the $4.5 billion spent annually to keep the

              nuclear stockpile reliable is an amount similar to the

              expense in years when weapons were still being


              An Arsenal's Allowance

              The United States has spent more on nuclear weapons

              since 1940 than on all other categories besides Social

              Security and nonnuclear defense, according to a

              Brookings Institution report.

              Total cost since 1940 in trillions of dollars* (adjusted

              for inflation)

              Nuclear weapons and infrastructure -- $5.8 trillion

              SOURCE: Brookings Institution=20

                 =A9 Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company


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