Funding the Nuclear Bow Wave

The Department of Defense looked at its nuclear strategic portfolio and quickly realized that “unless the department was willing to divest the submarine leg of the triad—which we’re not—there’s no way to pay for [nuclear] modernization within the budget,” said Jamie Morin, the director of cost assessment and program evaluation, on Monday. The Fiscal 2017 Future Years Defense Program, or five-year plan for defense spending, shows an uptick in funding for 2021, the target procurement date for the first of the Navy’s Ohio-class submarine replacements, as well as a year that will require significant investment in the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent and the B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber programs. But that is only the beginning of the nuclear “bow wave,” which Morin characterized as a doubling of nuclear spending—“on the order of $12 to $18 billion” each year above what the Pentagon has spent on the nuclear enterprise over the past decade. While there are some trades to be made within the defense budget, DOD Comptroller Mike McCord said, ramping up the spending is “really a larger national question of how much are we willing to pay for defense when you get to that era.”