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CBO: Nuclear Forces Expansion in Response to New START Pact’s Expiration Could Cost DoD Up to $439B

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A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report says the Department of Defense (DoD) could incur $410 billion to $439 billion in onetime costs if the U.S. government decides to expand its strategic nuclear forces to the START I treaty levels in response to the expiration of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia.

CBO said in the report published on Tuesday that such a move could generate between $24 billion and $28 billion in additional annual costs to operate and sustain new delivery systems and warheads.

CBO’s estimates are based on its use of a more flexible approach, which seeks to procure “enough delivery systems to reach the desired total numbers of warheads while maintaining (as nearly as possible) the current number of warheads allocated to each missile and bomber.”

New START between the U.S. and Russia is set to expire in February 2021. The treaty limits the number of strategic nuclear warheads each country may deploy to 1,550. Each country is allowed to field up to 800 bombers and missile launchers as delivery systems.

“If the New START treaty expired, the United States could choose to make no changes to its current plans for nuclear forces, in which case it would incur no additional costs,” CBO said in the report. “If the United States chose to increase its forces in response to the expiration of the treaty, modest expansions could be relatively inexpensive and could be done quickly.”

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