By all accounts, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is a smart man: Yale graduate, Rhodes scholar, doctorate in theoretical physics, teaching stints at the JFK School of Government and MIT, and two rounds of service at the Department of Defense, one in the Clinton years and now in the Obama administration. But even the smartest guy in the room gets it wrong once in a while, and such was the case at this year’s Aspen Security Forum. When asked by New York Times chief Washington correspondent David Sanger whether it might not “save you considerably” to cut U.S. nuclear forces by one-third, Carter responded by saying that nuclear weapons are not “a big swinger of the budget” because “they don’t cost that much.”
But the aforementioned projects are long-term efforts, which will be paid for over time by ourselves, our children and, in some cases, our grandchildren. An apples-to-apples comparison can be had by looking at two independent analyses: a 2008 report by Stephen Schwartz and Deepti Choubey for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a 2012 analysis by Russell Rumbaugh and Nathan Cohn for the Stimson Center, which represent the most comprehensive current estimates of direct nuclear weapons spending.
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