Discretionary Spending Option

Function 050 - National Defense

Adjust DoD’s and DOE’s Plans for Modernizing Nuclear Forces

CBO periodically issues a compendium of policy options (called Options for Reducing the Deficit) covering a broad range of issues, as well as separate reports that include options for changing federal tax and spending policies in particular areas. This option appears in one of those publications. The options are derived from many sources and reflect a range of possibilities. For each option, CBO presents an estimate of its effects on the budget but makes no recommendations. Inclusion or exclusion of any particular option does not imply an endorsement or rejection by CBO.

Existing U.S. nuclear forces are nearing the end of their operational lifetimes, and current plans call for concurrently modernizing virtually every element of those forces over the coming decades. Many experts, including within the Congress and the Department of Defense, have expressed concern about the costs of modernization when combined with the costs of continuing to operate and sustain the existing forces until their replacements are ready. CBO analyzed nine policy options that would adjust the plans for modernizing nuclear forces laid out in the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget submission and thereby reduce the total cost of U.S. nuclear forces:

  • Delay some modernization programs, specifically the new intercontinental ballistic missile portion of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, the B-21 bomber, and the interoperable warhead programs;
  • Forgo nuclear cruise missiles;
  • Forgo nuclear bombs;
  • Reduce the size of the nuclear triad so that it has fewer ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles while still fielding 1,550 deployed warheads;
  • Field a nuclear dyad without bombers while still fielding 1,550 deployed warheads;
  • Field a nuclear dyad without intercontinental ballistic missiles while still fielding 1,550 deployed warheads;
  • Further reduce the size of the nuclear triad so that it has 1,000 deployed warheads;
  • Field a smaller nuclear dyad without bombers with 1,000 deployed warheads;
  • Field a smaller nuclear dyad without intercontinental ballistic missiles with 1,000 deployed warheads.