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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. nuclear arsenal upgrade to cost at least $350 billion

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By Ken Hanly     Sep 17, 2012 in World
Washington - The Obama administration's modernization plan includes upgrading over 5,000 nuclear warheads and refurbishing storage facilities. Delivery systems for the weapons need to be replaced.
The U.S. has 5,113 nuclear warheads each of which could wipe out most of a major city. U.S. priorities are clear. While the U.S. debt is in the trillions and the country faces a fiscal cliff, it is regarded as imperative that all these weapons be retained and even upgraded.
The cost estimate of slightly more than $350 billion comes from the Stimson Center. The program is to last a decade. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) places the plan on a high-risk list for fraud, waste, and abuse. No doubt politicians will applaud the scheme as producing jobs and make sure that some of the work is channeled to their own constituencies.
The nuclear arsenal has been more or less neglected for two decades. Officials simply put off putting money into the aging arsenal. However each year the cost of upgrading to keep the arsenal safe and reliable increases.
U.S. military tactics have changed to reliance on Special Operations Forces and tactical strikes. It is difficult to see why so many nuclear warheads are even needed.Yet Federal Officials are determined to act now to maintain air, sea, and land nuclear superiority. These gargantuan expenses may cause economic stresses of such magnitude that the U.S. will lose the battle with rising giants such as China and India through U.S. unsustainable defense expenditures which are almost as much as the rest of the world added together.
The costs of renovation are huge. Just one of the seven types of stockpiled weapons the B61 bomb will likely cost $10 billion over five years. In comparison the budget for Fairfax County next year will cost just $3.5 billion and this includes the school system. The Virginia county has over a million people. Fairfax County is a county in Virginia, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the county is 1,081,726, making it the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 13.5% of Virginia's population. The county is also the most populous jurisdiction in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The opportunity costs of money spent on outdated weapons many of which are probably not needed is huge but so will be the rewards to the military-industrial complex. An estimate of the world stockpile of nuclear weapons can be found here. The estimate for the U.S. is larger than in this article. Apparently some weapons are still waiting to be dismantled but are not operational. This may explain the difference.
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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