Here’s a fun post to take your mind off Ebola and Washington’s myriad foreign policy problems.
A mere five years ago, in the announcement awarding President Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
What’s going on? Could there be a pragmatic explanation, or is this just good, old-fashioned bloodthirstiness? Adam Mount at the Council on Foreign Relations calls the administration’s record on nuclear issues “deeply ambivalent,” but explains that the nation’s nuclear arsenal is becoming obsolete and that ”the United States is preparing to upgrade nearly every bomber, submarine, missile, and warhead in the arsenal in the next decades.” This modernization, he adds, “will drive the cost of the arsenal 75 percent higher in the next ten years than the last, and up to $1 trillion over the next thirty years.”
As this Reuters graphic shows, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the 10-year costs of maintaining and modernizing our existing arsenal at $355 billion, with another $215 billion slated for “other nuclear-related activities.”
The Times story reveals some pretty alarming anecdotal details about our crumbling nuclear facilities, but National Nuclear Security Administration numbers quantify the scope of the problem:
- 43,000 employees spread over eight weapons facilities
- 2540 total lane-miles of paved roads—nearly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles
- 275,000 total lane-miles of unpaved roads—enough for 11 laps around the equator
- 8,000,000 miles of fencing—enough to encircle the D.C. Beltway 24 times
- 2160 square miles of land—about the size of Delaware
- 38.5 million square feet of facility space—six Pentagons worth
- 9.5 trillion BTUs of energy consumed annually—enough to power 250,000 homes
- 15.2 million square feet of hazardous materials—enough to fill 15 Washington Monuments
So while it’s true that a trillion dollars over thirty years sounds aggressive, the silver lining is that much of that money is going to ensure that our decaying infrastructure doesn’t harm Americans on their own homeland.
See, now Ebola and ISIS are the least of your worries!