In the Shadow of the Nuclear Modernization Mountain, Nuclear Weapons Budget Ripe for Savings

I've published a new piece on the Center homepage on Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's preview of the FY 2015 Pentagon budget request last week and the implications for nuclear weapons. Here's the intro:
Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey previewed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Pentagon budget request. Additional details are not scheduled to be released until Tuesday (March 4), but the broad outlines of the request are already clear.
And despite cuts to many Pentagon programs, Hagel stated that the budget had "preserved all three legs of the nuclear triad and will make important investments to preserve a safe, secure, reliable, and effective nuclear force."
Hagel announced a number of cost saving measures driven by the Congressional mandate to reduce military spending as part of an overall deficit reduction effort, including reducing the size of the Army, retiring the A-10 fleet of aircraft, reducing the planned buy of the Littoral Combat Ship, and modest reforms to the escalating and unsustainable growth in personnel compensation costs.
Yet the Pentagon either couldn’t find, or, more accurately, was unwilling to find, additional savings and thus proposed an unrealistic budget blueprint through FY 2019 that exceeds the Budget Control Act caps by $115 billion. The Pentagon also invited Congress to further inflate its coffers by proposing an additional $26 billion in spending for FY 2015 that didn’t make it into the formal budget submission. Without this additional funding, Hagel argued, “the military will still face significant readiness and modernization challenges next year.”
Given the requirement to find budget savings beyond current plans and also maintain the world’s finest military, the Pentagon should be prioritizing military programs that are the most critical to combatting the current threats we face, since every dollar spent on lower priority programs is a dollar that can’t be spent on more important needs.
It would therefore be puzzling if the Pentagon shields nuclear weapons from the chopping block in its budget request (which it largely appears to have done) – especially since our military leaders have already determined that we have more nuclear weapons than we need for our security. But just as the administration’s FY 2015 budget is divorced from reality, so too are its nuclear weapons spending plans.
Read the whole thing here. I'll have more to say about the budget, particularly on the NNSA side, when the full details are released tomorrow.