Trump admin’s planned nuclear weapons activities likely to break the budget


Washington (February 27, 2020) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, formally requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examine if  nuclear modernization activities undertaken by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) are sustainable and affordable investments in our national security. 

Since GAO’s last 2017 report recommending that NNSA address affordability issues for its program of work in Fiscal Year 2017, the Trump administration has moved in the opposite direction by increasing the role, types, and cost of U.S. nuclear weapons. President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget for NNSA’s weapons activities, for instance, calls for a 25 percent increase over FY 2020 enacted levels and well-above the level NNSA projected one year earlier. Additionally, the Pentagon projects spending $167 billion over the next five years on its side of the nuclear weapons enterprise. 


“Questions about affordability are critical given the significant expansion in NNSA’s budget and activities,” write the Senators in their letter to Gene Dodaro, Controller of the United States. Specifically, the Senators ask GAO whether NNSA has embraced its recommendation to consider “deferring or cancelling specific modernization programs.” In their request, the Senators note that the GAO analysis is made all the more urgent by the fact that U.S. nuclear-weapons spending could balloon further should the President allow the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to expire next February.”


A copy of the letter can be found HERE


In their letter, the Senators ask for responses to questions that include:

  • Has NNSA considered deferring or canceling specific modernization programs, per GAO’s 2017 recommendation?
  • Which programs in the NNSA, other areas of the Department of Energy, or other U.S. Government agencies will receive less funding to compensate of weapons activities budget increase?
  • How would the potential expiration of New START in February 2021 affect the assumptions in the FY2021 budget estimate regarding future-years funding?