Nuclear Upgrade Ignores Pentagon's Fiscal Cliff
The Cold War is over, the fiscal cliff is ahead, so why not spend billions on U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Shouldn't these weapons be decommissioned?
Pentagon Cries Poor, Starts $10 Billion Nuclear Weapon Upgrade The Pentagon is facing its worst cash crunch in more than a decade, with potential cuts of up to a half-trillion dollars over the next decade if Congress doesn't act soon. Yet the U.S. military still somehow found the money on Tuesday to put a down payment on a $10 billion upgrade of its nuclear weapons in Europe...
...while the rest of the Defense Department is looking to save money, the costs for the mod 12 program keep going up. In May, the project -- which entails upgrading an estimated 400 weapons -- had a price tag of $6 billion. By July, that number had grown to $10 billion. That's not only the equivalent of two-thirds of what the federal government plans to spend on all nuclear weapon enhancements over the next twenty years. "It would be less expensive to build solid-gold replicas of each of the 700-pound B61s, even at near-record gold prices," as Lewis recently noted in Foreign Policy.
One reason why: the mod 12 [nuclear upgrade] project -- even though it's billed as a "life extension program" -- isn't just about replacing the components of the weapons that are decaying or corroding. (Independent experts say that would take a mere billion or two.) When you swap out the B61Ã¢ÂÂ²s parachute for satellite-guided tail fin assembly, it introduces a new complication, Lewis adds. "An atomic bomb dropped without a parachute will explode before the airplane is safely away. That means [the federal government] must also redesign much of the packaging and components to survive 'laydown' -- i.e., thudding into the ground and then exploding a few moments later." An internal Pentagon audit showed 15 of the 29 planned changes for mod 12 are still technologically immature.
This couldn't possibly be the scenario for yet another cost over run by a defense contractor.