On Weapons Spending

Stephen I. Schwartz

To the Editor:

Vice Admiral Dennis A. Jones, deputy commander of the United States Strategic Command, responding to a proposal by retired Gen. George Lee Butler of the Air Force to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, seriously undercounts current United States nuclear weapons expenditures (news article, Jan. 8).

Admiral Jones says spending for nuclear weapons “is probably less than 4 percent” of the defense budget. But this figure counts just strategic offensive forces–bombers, land and submarine-based ballistic missiles. It does not encompass the entire range of nuclear weapons programs and expenditures. In 1997, total United States nuclear weapons spending will exceed $34 billion, about 13 percent of the defense budget.

Admiral Jones also says that since 1990, “spending on nuclear weapons and delivery has shrunk by 75 percent to 80 percent.” But an October 1991 Congressional Budget Office report estimated total United States nuclear weapons spending in 1990 at $56 billion, meaning total costs have declined only 39 percent since then.

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