Nuclear Modernization Adjusts to Sequester

The Defense Department will update Congress this spring on the status of its nuclear delivery vehicle modernization, said Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear policy. Speaking to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel last week, Bunn noted that there is a gap between the original plan, which was laid out during the New START treaty debate in 2010 before sequester caps were implemented, and the reality of the budget. At the time, the White House sent an extensive plan to modernize and maintain the US nuclear arsenal between 2010 and 2020, which detailed over $100 billion of proposed modernization activities for the Department of Defense’s delivery systems and infrastructure. The upcoming report will address the modernization plan in more detail, Bunn said, but she noted the Administration’s modernization goals “have not changed” since 2010. “We’ve made considerable progress, but we have had to make some adjustments due to fiscal constraints.” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) jumped on this, asking Bunn if DOD was “significantly behind” its modernization plan for both platforms and the warhead stockpile. Bunn declined to detail exact figures, noting the funding “is not what we thought” in the updated report coming out, but the nuclear triad continues to receive priority in the President’s Budget.