Study: Nukes cost $52 billion yearly

A new study [A1] revealed that the U.S. currently spent more than $52 billion last year on nuclear weapons and related programs.

The study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [A2] said that our nuclear weapons spending—excluding classified programs—makes up 10% of the total defense budget, consumes 67% of the Department of Energy’s budget, and greatly exceeding the total amount spent on international diplomacy and foreign aid ($39.5 billion) or general science, space, and technology ($27.4 billion).

The report concluded that only 1.3% of the total amount was directed towards preparing for a nuclear or radiological attack while 56% is devoted to maintain and upgrading the current U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Three billion dollars went towards prevention and securing efforts while roughly $2 billion was used for nonproliferation and elimination.

The allocation of resources and lack of accurate accounting leaves the "impression that the United States is more interested in preserving and upgrading its nuclear arsenal than in reducing and eliminating the growing threats of nuclear proliferation and limited nuclear or radiological attack," according to a report summary.

Advocacy groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) are distressed with the report’s findings.

"Nuclear weapons pose the most serious threat to human life," Cherie Eichholz, Executive Director of Washington PSR, wrote in an email.  "The numbers are highly disturbing, as is the fact that less than 10 percent of the $52 billion went toward slowing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology."

While national groups like PSR have been working on disarmament for years, nuclear weapons and deterrence have recently come under scrutiny from high-level planners.

Three retired senior military officers in the UK recently penned an op-ed in the London Times [A3] opposing their government’s move to upgrade their Trident nuclear weapons program, stating that the country’s nuclear deterrent was "virtually irrelevant"

"Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently, or are likely to, face — particularly international terrorism," they wrote.

Complete nuclear disarmament, an idea previously dismissed as "radical," has recently gained support in the mainstream: from establishment journals like Foreign Affairs [A4] ("The Logic of Zero: Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons" Nov/Dec 08) and the Economist [A5] ("Banning the bomb" Nov 19, 08) to former Cold War planners like Robert McNamara [A6] ("Apocalypse Soon" Foreign Policy May 05) and George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn[A7]  ("No nukes" Boston Globe, Nov 19, 08).

"Current US security policies do not reflect underlying public opinion[A8] ," said John Steinburner of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland.

Large majorities [A9] of the world’s population, ranging from 62% to 93% across 20 countries surveyed, favor "eliminating all nuclear weapons," which includes the major nuclear powers: the U.S. (77%), Russia (69%), China (83%), France (86%), and Great Britain (81%), according to a poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. 

"Ultimately the people will need to demand that US policies be changed and the more who are working toward that end, the faster it will happen," Eichholz wrote.


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