Pentagon officials testified before Congress earlier this month that modernization of the nation’s aging nuclear deterrent will cost $350-450 billion over the next 20 years. Sounds like an astronomical amount, right? Well, it turns out Americans will spend much larger amounts on cigarettes or lottery tickets during the same period. When you do the math, $450 billion (the high end of the modernization estimate) works out to an average of $22.5 billion each year — about two days worth of federal spending annually at current rates. And if you take the Congressional Budget Office projection of how big the gross domestic product will be at the mid-point in the 20-year span, it appears that the cost of modernizing the nuclear force will represent about one-tenth of one-percent of economic output. That seems like a pretty reasonable price-tag if it deters nuclear war. I have written a commentary for the National Interest here.
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