Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2021 to 2030
CBO estimates that plans for U.S. nuclear forces, as described in the fiscal year 2021 budget and supporting documents, would cost $634 billion over the 2021–2030 period, $140 billion more than CBO’s 2019 estimate for the 2019–2028 period.
The Congressional Budget Office is required by law to project the 10-year costs of nuclear forces every two years. This report contains CBO’s projections for the period from 2021 to 2030.
If carried out, the plans for nuclear forces delineated in the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) fiscal year 2021 budget requests, submitted in February 2020, would cost a total of $634 billion over the 2021–2030 period, for an average of just over $60 billion a year, CBO estimates.
Almost two-thirds of those costs would be incurred by DoD; its largest costs would be for ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. DOE’s costs would be primarily for nuclear weapons laboratories and supporting activities.
The current 10-year total is 28 percent higher than CBO’s most recent previous estimate of the 10-year costs of nuclear forces, $494 billion over the 2019–2028 period.
Almost half (about 49 percent) of the $140 billion increase in that total arises because the 10-year period covered by the current estimate begins and ends two years later than the period covered by the 2019 estimate. Thus, the period now includes two later (and more expensive) years of development in nuclear modernization programs. Also, costs in those two later years reflect 10 years of economywide inflation relative to the two years that drop out of the 10-year projection; that factor (in the absence of other changes to programs) accounts for about one-fourth of the 49 percent increase.
About 36 percent of the $140 billion increase is projected to occur from 2021 to 2028—the years included in both this estimate and the 2019 estimate. That increase stems mainly from new plans for modernizing DOE’s production facilities and from DoD’s modernization programs moving more fully into production.