Exact Cost of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Programs Not Known, GAO Says

Disparities in accounting procedures are preventing the United States from pinpointing the exact cost of maintaining its nuclear deterrent and the arsenal’s associated support system.

Stars_and_Stripes_Capital_BuildingDisparities in accounting procedures used by various branches of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex are preventing the United States from pinpointing the exact total cost of maintaining its nuclear deterrent and the arsenal’s associated support system, congressional investigators said in a report made public.

The expense of operating and caring for weapons sites and related support components probably “significantly” outstrips funds for the work requested by the Obama administration for fiscal 2009, the Government Accountability Office report states, citing responses provided to congressional auditors by relevant facilities.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous Energy Department agency, receives roughly $6.4 billion each year for maintaining and securing U.S. nuclear weapons, the document notes. The administration has indicated it would seek $4.25 billion in additional funding for the nuclear weapons activities between the 2011 and 2015 fiscal years.

To arrive at specific funding requests for the Stockpile Services program — a separate part of the weapons complex that carries out production activities as well as research and development work — the nuclear agency evaluates how well the program carried out various functions with funds acquired in earlier budget cycles, rather than attempting to measure each function’s precise cost, according to the GAO report. The accounting technique provides insufficient detail on the actual expense of the program’s various efforts, according to the assessment’s authors.

Plans to cut the number of U.S. nuclear weapons were unlikely to have a major impact on the cost of the Stockpile Services and facilities operations areas, which together account for about one-third of U.S. nuclear weapons spending, according to the report.

The nuclear agency should “develop guidance for consistent collection of total cost information and use this information for budget formulation and program planning,” the report states.

The document encourages NNSA efforts now under way to provide additional information on costs associated with the two areas of nuclear weapons work (U.S. Government Accountability Office release, June 21).

Two key lawmakers called for more detailed accounting of U.S. nuclear-weapon expenditures.

Click here to read the full article.

Source: Global Security Newswire by National Journal Group
Photo: U.S. Government Accountability Office