Rebuttal of anti-nuke hacks’ lies about US nuclear weapons spending

By | December 4, 2013


The leftist “National Defense Magazine”, which has often published utterly false propaganda screeds on defense issues, has recently published yet another one of this kind: an article that falsely claims US nuclear weapons spending is poised to skyrocket and is exempt from sequester.

Even worse, that garbage screed uncritically repeats the lies of several extremely leftist anti-nuclear activists and organizations, such as the Council for a Livable World’s Kingston Reif, the CATO Institute, and POGO.

The screed repeats Kingston Reif’s blatant lies that nuclear weapons spending is supposedly poised to “soar” at a time when the rest of the military budget is declining fast, that such spending will increasingly crowd out funding for conventional weapons, that it will force the DOD into very difficult between nuclear and conventional arms, that deeply and unilaterally cutting the nuclear arsenal would still leave the US with a “devastating deterrent”, etc.

All of these claims are blatant lies borrowed uncritically from leftist groups and activists. Here are THE FACTS:

1) Nuclear weapons and their delivery systems are NOT, have not been, and will not be in any way spared or shielded from the sequester. There is NO provision in the Budget Control Act (BCA), which created the sequester, or in any other law, that would shield/ring-fence the nuclear arsenal from budget cuts. In fact, by the National Defense Magazine’s own admission, the sequester has recently cut the B61 warhead modernization program’s budget by $30 mn.

And in 2012, then-SECDEF Panetta said that if sequestration persists, the DOD would have to eliminate the entire ICBM fleet, cut the bomber fleet by 2/3s, kill the NGB program, cut the SSBN fleet, and delay the SSBN replacement program.

So any claim that nuclear weapons spending is protected from the sequester, or is set to skyrocket, is a BLATANT LIE, meaning that the people making such claims are LIARS.

And no one should be fooled by Kingston Reif’s false concern for conventional weapon programs. His organization advocates, and has long advocated, deep cuts in America’s conventional and nuclear weapon programs like – in ALL categories of American military power. They simply want to gut America’s defense.

At present, the entire nuclear arsenal and its associated infrastructure cost only $31-32 bn per year, that is, a paltry 5% of the entire military budget. Therefore, Kingston Reif’s claim that nuclear weapons will force the DOD to choose between them and conventional weapons is a blatant lie. At just 5% of the military budget, US nuclear weapons spending is too low to have that effect.

Even cutting US nuclear weapons spending deeply, or even eliminating it entirely, would not come anywhere close to freeing up enough funding for (increasingly expensive) conventional weapon systems.

OTOH, terminating the useless F-35 program (whose cost is nearly $400 bn) and reforming the DOD’s grotesquely costly pay, personnel, and benefits schemes and its byzantine acqusitions system would yield huge savings that would allow significant investments in both nuclear and conventional programs.

Absent such reforms, however, there will not be enough money for any weapons – nuclear or conventional – because personnel costs will eat up an ever-larger share – and eventually the whole – of the US military budget! By FY2039, on present trends, there won’t be a single dollar for ANY weapon – nuclear or conventional – because 100% of the DOD budget will be spent on personnel and their benefits!

2) Kingston Reif is not an expert on anything, let alone nuclear weapons. He’s a far-left anti-nuclear activist. He has zero knowledge of nuclear weapons or US defense budgets. Calling him an “expert”, as the NDM has done, is ridiculous and an insult to every real expert on the subject.

3) Kingston Reif’s “estimate” of the costs of nuclear modernization ($300 bn/25 years) is a wild exaggeration designed to mislead the public and thus to get the public to abandon the program. It isn’t based on any sound sources. But even if his wildly exaggerated “estimate” were true – and it isn’t even CLOSE to being true – that would amount to only slightly more than $10 bn per year ($300 bn over a period of 25 years – a quarter of a century). That’s very much affordable.

That Reif and other anti-nuclear activists make such grossly exaggerated claims is not surprising – they want America to disarm itself unilaterally (and thus to open itself to attack by powers which these anti-nuke activists serve) by simply allowing its nuclear arsenal to decay and rust away without modernization.

4) Reif’s claim that the US could still have a “devastating” nuclear deterrent after cutting the planned new SSBN fleet from twelve to just eight boats and delaying the next-gen bomber program until the mid-2020s is likewise a blatant lie. Such actions would GUT the nuclear deterrent while saving only a pittance – according to the CBO’s grossly exaggerated estimate, $48 bn over two decades – and possibly inviting a Russian nuclear first strike on the US, since, after such deep cuts, the US would have only 4-5 boats and 450 ICBMs of any credible retaliatory power. (The rest of the boats would be in overhaul, and the USAF would lack bombers that could penetrate Russian airspace in retaliation.)

With just eight SSBNs, only four to five at most would be at sea at any given time (the rest would be in refit/overhaul). That’s a paltry number, and nowhere near enough to provide a sufficient nuclear retaliatory capability, even if all 4-5 SSBNs that would be at sea at any moment survived an enemy first strike… which would be highly unlikely, given that America’s enemies and allies alike have, in recent decades, REPEATEDLY detected, snuck upon, and scored goals against American (Ohio class) SSBNs.

Moreover, even if 4-5 SSBNs still survived, they would still be woefully inadequate to deliver a sufficiently devastating second strike, because they wouldn’t have enough missiles and warheads on these paltry 4-5 boats. A single future SSBN will have only 16 missiles, so 5*16=80 missiles, armed with, at best, 10 warheads each. That’s just 800 warheads compared to the over 1,400 (and growing) that Russia’s 13-strong SSBN fleet can deliver.

Nuclear deterrence is a numbers game. More nuclear weapons mean a stronger, more credible, more survivable nuclear deterrent.

The Navy did not take the planned number of new SSBNs (12) out of thin air; it arrived at that number after a careful, thorough analysis of how many subs are needed to provide deterrence after New START entered into force. The exact opposite of the “eight SSBNs” number proposed by the CBO and by pro-unilateral-disarmament groups like CLW, POGO, and others – which was taken out of thin air.

And make no mistake: these treasonous pro-unilateral-disarmament groups treat that as a mere step on the way to disarming America completely and unilaterally.

As for the next-gen bomber, it is urgently needed NOW and cannot be delayed any further. It is absolutely needed for both nuclear and conventional missions on which it would have to penetrate highly-defended airspace – Russian, Chinese, North Korean, Iranian, and Syrian airspace defended (or soon to be defended, in Iran’s and Syria’s case) by sophisticated, modern (excl. NK), highly capable long-range air defense systems like the S-300, S-400, S-500, HQ-9, and HQ-16 (not to mention any systems Moscow or Beijing may field in the next decade or two, like the S-500 currently in development).

Currently, America has only a handful of bombers able to penetrate such airspace – a paltry 20 B-2 bombers. That’s woefully inadequate. Moreover, even B-2 bombers may, in the early 2020s, lose ability to penetrate defended airspace (CSBA’s Mark Gunzinger, a REAL expert on bomber and nuke issues, says they will). This means the next-gen bomber is needed NOW and cannot be delayed any further. In fact, it was already delayed for way, way too long before the program was launched in 2011. Without it, the USAF will completely lose its ability to penetrate defended airspace by the 2020s.

The urgent need for this bomber, and for development to be conducted NOW, has been reaffirmed by the 2006 and 2010 QDR, by every SECDEF since at least Bob Gates, by every SECAF and USAF Chief of Staff since the Gates years (Wynne, Donley, Fanning, Gens. Moseley, Schwartz, and Welsh), by the USAF as a whole, and by numerous independent (outside the DOD) think-tanks from the Mitchell Institute to Heritage to the Lexington Institute to the CSBA, CNAS, and AEI, and to the Joint Force Quarterly publication. And just recently, both Gen. Welsh and (outgoing) Deputy SECDEF Ash Carter have STRONGLY reaffirmed the need for a next-gen bomber.

For more on why the NGB is needed, see here, here and here.

The need for the next-gen bomber is INDISPUTABLE. It’s an undebatable FACT.

The CBO’s “recommendations” should be ignored. The CBO only employs bean-counters who know nothing about defense issues.

5) POGO’s and others’ claim that the B61 nuclear bomb modernization’s cost is “out of control” and “unaffordable” is also a blatant lie. At $10 bn in total, over a span of 11 years, it works out to just $900 mn per year, a perfectly affordable cost – a fraction of one percent of the military budget (let alone the entire federal budget or GDP). Don’t tell me America can’t afford to spend one sixth of one percent of its military budget modernizing its most important nuclear warhead.

You know what’s really unaffordable? The federal government’s social spending, which now comprises over 60% of the federal budget. It – not defense spending – is driving America ever deeper into debt. That is to say nothing of the coming tsunami of Social Security and Medicare spending as the Baby Boomers retire.

6) POGO’s and others’ claim that the B61 bomb is not needed in Europe is likewise patently false. The B61 is VERY MUCH NEEDED in Europe to deter Russia, which has a huge tactical nuclear arsenal (4,000 tactical warheads and the means to deliver all of them by a wide range of systems), and just in the last 6 years has threatened to aim, or even use, its nuclear weapons against America or its allies at least FIFTEEN separate times. It has also repeatedly flown nuclear-armed bombers into or near European countries’ airspace and simulated nuclear strikes on them – even on neutral Sweden!

Putin’s Russia is an increasingly aggressive potential adversary and can only be deterred with strength, not unilateral disarmament like POGO advocates.

Moreover, as recently as the last NATO summit, NATO REAFFIRMED the need for US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and America’s European (and Asian) allies have REPEATEDLY, in recent years, stressed the importance of America’s extended nuke deterrent which the B61 bomb constitutes.

The need for B61 modernization has recently been reaffirmed by top DOD, DOE, and NNSA officials, including STRATCOM commander Gen. Bob Kehler.


7) POGO is not a watchdog group. It is a treasonous, anti-American, pro-unilateral disarmament organization partially financed by George Soros.

8) Dianne Feinstein’s and others’ claim that the US has more nuclear weapons than it needs is also a blatant lie. The US barely has enough deployed weapons to deter Russia and China. Russia’s ICBM fleet (430 missiles in all) can deliver at least 1,684 warheads to the CONUS; Russia’s bomber fleet, over 2,000, and Russia’s SSBN fleet, over 1,400. Russia’s tactical submarines armed with cruise missiles can deliver further warheads. China, for its part, has between 1,600 and 3,000 nuclear weapons. A small nuclear arsenal, like Sen. Feinstein demands, could be easily destroyed by Russia or even China in a first strike. Cutting the US nuclear arsenal further will only invite such a strike eventually, and it will also leave America’s allies (esp. Japan, SK, and the Gulf states) with no choice but to build their own nuclear weapons. 66% of South Koreans already want to do so. South Korea and Japan are ready to do so within months if need be.

Thus, the end result of cutting the US nuclear arsenal would be a world with MORE nuclear weapons (outside the US) and more nuclear-armed states. In other words, nuclear proliferation would get much worse.

The US nuclear arsenal is BY FAR the most valuable counter-proliferation tool the US has at its disposal.

9) CATO’s claim that eliminating the ICBM and bomber legs of the nuclear triad would save $20 bn per year is a blatant lie as well. In fact, doing so would “save” only $2.6 bn per year. That’s how little it costs to maintain these two legs of the triad.

CATO’s claim that the triad came to exist only because of interservice rivalry is a blatant lie, too. If it were true, why weren’t the Army and the Marines given any nuclear role?

CATO’s claim that the triad is a Cold War relic is likewise a total falsehood. If it were true, why are the Russians, the Chinese, and the Israelis retaining, modernizing, and expanding their own nuclear triads?

Answer: because they know that a nuclear triad is BY FAR the most survivable nuclear deterrence arrangement.

In sum, not a single claim that CATO, POGO, or CLW anti-defense hacks like Reif make is true. Not a single one. All their claims on nuclear weapons are blatant lies. Shame on the NDM for publishing yet another litany of blatant lies and for uncritically repeating the blatant lies of anti-nuke activists who only seek to disarm America unilaterally and thus to expose it to great danger.

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