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GDAMS-On the Issues: Nuclear Modernization Spending

GDAMS-On the Issues: Nuclear Modernization Spending

Published: March 15, 2016
Photo: IPB/AFSC / International Peace Bureau
Photo: AFSC

A Trillion Dollars for Nuclear Weapons

Dangerous & Costly in So Many Ways

Global Days of Action on Nuclear Weapons Spending

April 16-18, 2016

                Seventy years after the U.S. devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, and 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the world still teeters on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. In addition to the rising military tensions with Russia and China, former Secretary of Defense William Perry is warning that the U.S. nuclear weapons modernization program makes nuclear war more likely than during the Cold War. 

                The detonation of even one nuclear weapon can kill millions of people, which explains why the International Commission of the Red Cross advocates the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.[i] A study initiated by Physicians for Social Responsibility warn that an exchange of 50 – 100 or the worlds more than 15,000 nuclear weapons could lead to the deaths of up to two billion people from the resulting global famine.[ii]  And from ISIS to Al Qaeda and economic insecurity to climate change, nuclear weapons do nothing to protect us from the real threats we face.

                Yet instead of pursuing negotiations for worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons, the US is planning a total overhaul of its nuclear weapons program, including new generations of nuclear warheads, bombers, land-based missiles, air-launched missiles and submarine. The projected price tag? About $1 trillion over the next thirty years, or an average of $30 billion a year until the middle of the 21st century![iii] 

                Spending for nuclear weapons modernization is obscene, legal but criminal.  If even a tenth of the military’s 7,200 nuclear weapons were used, the result would be nuclear winter, ending all life as we know it. As the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombings tell us “Human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.”  The Pentagon and its political allies tell us that U.S. warheads need to be refurbished, and the delivery systems needed to launch them (missiles, bombers and submarines) need to be updated and replaced.

Yet, even if we accept the flawed logics of deterrence and mutual assured destruction (MAD,) this spending is a boondoggle, a windfall for the military-industrial complex. In fact, under the Pentagon’s stockpile stewardship program, all non-nuclear components of these weapons are checked and replaced as needed. And the Pentagon’s JASON project reports that the nuclear components will remain stable for at least 50-60 years!

Under pressure from the military-industrial-Congressional complex, including the nuclear weapons laboratories, wasteful and dangerous nuclear weapons modernization is moving forward, diverting our limited financial resources from addressing the needs of the hungry, the homeless, and those who can’t afford health care.  A quarter of the projected spending for modernization could provide free college education, for all who are qualified in America, for a decade. Spending to contain and reverse climate change and to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure would meet essential needs while creating jobs and providing greater economic opportunity and security.

What’s being modernized?

  • Despite President Obama’s pledge not to create new nuclear weapons, beginning with the B-61-12 warhead, this is precisely what is happening. As former Secretary of Defense William Perry has testified, the ability to increase or decrease the devastating power of the new B-61 makes the weapons more usable, this increasing the likelihood that nuclear wars will actually be fought.
  • New generations nuclear-armed missiles, submarines and bombers are being designed and constructed for nuclear warfighting. Estimates include:
    •  $120 billion for new intercontinental ballistic missiles
    • $102 billion for Ohio class submarines to carry and launch Trident missiles
    • $100 billion for the B-22 bomber to succeed the B-2 bomber
    • $270 billion to maintain the existing nuclear triad: bombers, missiles & submarines
  • And from Oak Ridge in Tennessee to Kansas City and Los Alamos, new weapons facilities are being built for the design and production of the nuclear arsenal and to underwrite the training of a new generation of nuclear weaponeers.


                In addition to the risk of nuclear annihilation and the failure to fund essential human needs, there is an additional personal cost: about $3,125 per person or $12,500 for a family of four. Here in Massachusetts, this amounts to more than $20 billion, enough to rebuild the MBTA and $13 billion left over for housing, schooling, and fixing our roads, bridges and election financing. 

Don’t mourn. Organize!  Global Days of Action April 5-18


GDAMS- The Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) are a time when people across the world join together in collaborative actions to focus public, political, and media attention on the true costs of military spending and the urgent need for new priorities.




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[ii] “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Rise:”, Physicians for Social Responsibility

[iii] “Last Obama Budget Goes for Broke on Nuclear Weapons”, Arms Control Association,