The Defense Department’s $264 billion figure badly underestimates the cost of modernizing the US nuclear deterrent over the next decade, found Government Accountability Office auditors. “GAO identified shortcomings with respect to the completeness of the budget estimates and the transparency of the assumptions” contained in DOD’s mandated annual report to Congress, states the executive summary of the watchdog agency’s report, issued on June 10. Modernization estimates completely omit development costs for the Air Force’s new bomber and next-generation ICBM, treating these programs as “zero-cost,” determined the auditors. In addition, DOD failed to share the key assumptions and potential limitations of its nuclear command and control upgrade plan, thereby limiting the report to Congress’ “utility for budgetary planning,” states the report. The auditors also asserted that the Department of Energy included “less funding than will be needed” in its figures for maintaining and updating the US nuclear warheads stockpile through Fiscal 2018.
The Collaborative Combat Aircraft will be operational in the late 2020s, several years before the Next-Generation Air Dominance family of systems, Air Force officials told the House Armed Services tactical aviation panel. The CCAs will first be “shooters,” then electronic warfare platforms, then sensors, in that order, they added.