Nukes Are “A Big Bill”

Modernizing the nuclear triad is going to cost “$12-$15 billion a year” for a decade or more and will likely crowd out a lot of other crucial programs if the nation doesn’t commit to spending a lot more on defense, Pentagon acquisition, technology, and logistics chief Frank Kendall said Tuesday. Addressing a seminar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Kendall said the nuclear bow wave “really starts to hit” in fiscal year 2021, when virtually all nuclear replacement programs will be underway. They include the new Air Force B-21 bomber and Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) missile, a new Air Force ICBM to replace the Minuteman, and a replacement for the Ohio-Class nuclear ballistic submarines and their Trident missiles. Kendall said the nuclear modernization effort is one of the top two issues he’ll bequeath upon his successor: the other is “how to do well at acquisition.” Kendall said his slow-and-steady improvements to the acquisition system—codified in the “Better Buying Power” guides, now in their third iteration—have yielded great savings and sharply reduced program slippage and overages. The challenge for his successor, he predicted, will be in accelerating the process without losing the checks and balances necessary to keep things fair, supervised, and on track.