Publication: Renewing America’s Nuclear Arsenal: Options for the 21st Century
13 September 2017
In the next few years the government of the United States will make decisions regarding the renewal of its nuclear forces that will have huge implications for the security of the country and its allies, its public finances and the salience of nuclear weapons in global politics. Current plans provide for spending an estimated US$1 trillion over 30 years to modernise or replace the full triad of air-, land- and sea-based nuclear weapons. This would amount to renewing the Cold War-era nuclear arsenal as a central part of US security strategy, rather than restructuring the force in a manner that would acknowledge fundamental changes in the security environment and seek to lead the world in a strategic transition away from nuclear weapons.
While the planned timescale for the complete modernisation or replacement of the triad exceeds 30 years, key decisions on most major weapons-system procurement will occur during the next decade. Most of the current warheads and delivery vehicles will reach the end of their designed operational lifetimes at various points over the next 20 years. Facilities to produce or refurbish nuclear warheads in the enduring stockpile also require modernisation, consolidation and improved safety.