Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons

Release of a New Report, Hosted by the Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense Program

As defense budgets decrease, many observers have called for cutting nuclear weapons to produce savings.  But nobody is really sure how much the United States spends on nuclear weapons.  Official estimates suggest $20 billion a year.  Unofficial estimates say $55 billion a year.  The wide gap of those estimates creates an uncertainty that clouds the policy discussion of what the United States should do with its nuclear weapons.

Click here to read and download the report.

Stimson released this report of a year-long study that clarifies these issues.  First, it compares the various estimates and demonstrates that most of the difference comes from different definitions.  Second, it employs a new methodology to estimate the costs of the most uncertain aspect of nuclear weapons-support costs within the Department of Defense. 

The event featured a presentation by the report’s authors laying out the conclusions of the report, followed by a panel of experts to discuss the implications of the report’s findings with a question and answer period to follow. This report will clarify the uncertainty over how much the United States spends on nuclear weapons, returning the focus to the more important questions about how the United States should handle its nuclear weapons in the coming years. 

Presentation by the Report’s Authors:
Russell Rumbaugh, Director, Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense, Stimson Center
Nathan Cohn, Research Assistant, Stimson Center
Followed by a panel discussion with:
Stephen Schwartz, Editor of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Journal, The Nonproliferation Review
Robert Zarate, Policy Director, The Foreign Policy Initiative
Kingston Reif, Director of Non-Proliferation, The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation



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