REDUCING THE DEFICIT: SPENDING AND REVENUE OPTIONS
Congressional Budget Office - March 1997


DEF-01 REDUCE NUCLEAR DELIVERY SYSTEMS WITHIN OVERALL LIMITS OF START II


Annual Savings							Five-Year
Savings from			(Millions of dollars)	    	Cumulative
the 1997 Plan		1998	1999	2000	2001	2002	Total

Budget Authority	366	506	1,411	1,595	1,232	5,110

Outlays			100	282	646	1,077	1,318	3,423

With the end of the Cold War, the nuclear superpowers have begun to scale back the size of their nuclear arsenals. If put into effect, the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), which was completed in 1993, will require that long-range nuclear forces be cut to roughly two-thirds of their 1990 levels by early in the next century. The United States and Russia have begun to plan their nuclear forces within the framework provided by both of the START accords; Ukraine's decision of November 1994 to sign the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty should greatly help to implement both START treaties. START II was ratified by the Senate in January 1996 but faces an uncertain future in Russia's parliament.

The Administration currently plans to deploy a strategic force in 2003 with 450 to 500 Minuteman III ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles, each carrying a single warhead, although they can carry three), 66 B-52H bombers (each carrying an average of no more than 15 warheads), 20 B-2 bombers (each carrying 16 warheads), and 14 Trident submarines (each carrying 120 warheads). That force is based on the Pentagon's 1994 review of U.S. nuclear doctrine and forces (the Nuclear Posture Review). Overall, the United States would deploy almost 3,500 warheads--the maximum number allowed by START II.

This option would keep the same number of warheads that the Administration plans under START II, but it would load the warheads on fewer missiles and submarines and thus would retire some platforms that the Administration proposes to retain in its plan. Under this option, the United States would retire four Trident submarines and 200 Minuteman III ICBMs relative to the plan (assuming that 500 ICBMs would have been deployed). It would preserve 300 Minuteman III ICBMs and 10 Trident submarines, each loaded with 24 missiles. The number of warheads deployed on the smaller Trident force would stay at the level planned by the Administration (1,680) by increasing the number of warheads on each missile from five to seven (see DEF-02). Like the Administration's plan, this option would retain 66 B-52H nuclear bombers, but they would carry an average of 16 warheads each for a total of 1,056 warheads. It would also keep 20 B-2 bombers, each loaded with 16 warheads--the same number planned by the Administration. Thus, the total strategic nuclear force proposed in this option would carry almost 3,400 warheads--roughly 100 fewer than the Administration proposes. Furthermore, no weapon system would be deployed with more warheads than it was designed to carry.

Compared with the Administration's plan, this option could save $366 million in budget authority in 1998 and $5.1 billion over the next five years. Savings in outlays would be smaller: $100 million in 1998 and $3.4 billion through 2002. Those savings would come from reduced operation and support (O&S) costs and lower levels of investment. The O&S savings reflect the retirement of 200 Minuteman ICBMs and the early retirement of two Trident submarines. Investment savings would be achieved by canceling production of D5 missiles after buying seven missiles in 1997, extending the service life of fewer Minuteman missiles, and forgoing the Administration's plans to reconfigure two Trident submarines so that they can carry new D5 missiles. Savings from retiring two additional Trident submarines would occur after 2002.

During the Cold War, this option might have raised concerns about stability. By putting more nuclear "eggs" in fewer baskets, the United States would have increased its vulnerability to a surprise attack. But today, with the most destabilizing nuclear modernization programs in the former Soviet Union terminated, fewer weapons at high states of readiness, and the end of the military competition between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact in Europe, those concerns have become less acute. The United States may now decide that it can save money safely by deploying its warheads on fewer weapon systems.

This option would also preserve flexibility for future developments. For example, it would retain three types of nuclear systems (the so-called triad) despite the recommendations of some analysts that all ICBMs be retired in order to save money. Retaining all three types provides a margin of security against an adversary's developing a new technology that might render other legs of the nuclear triad more vulnerable to attack. In addition, although ICBMs are considered the most vulnerable portion of the triad, at least a fraction of them would be able to survive virtually any type of attack by any country, even if they had been taken off alert.

Against this option's advantages, the Congress would have to balance a number of disadvantages. Carrying more warheads on bombers and submarines would diminish the targeting flexibility of U.S. planners. Unilaterally reducing the ICBM and ballistic missile submarine forces would also limit the ability of the United States to increase significantly the number of warheads it deployed in the event that Russia decided suddenly not to abide by START II. Indeed, some critics of this option and the Administration's plan argue that the United States should not relinquish any capability until Russia has fully complied with START I and ratified START II, because such a unilateral reduction would diminish U.S. leverage to persuade Russia to reduce its forces. Finally, by deploying fewer ICBMs, this option would reduce the forces that could be placed most easily in a nonalert but survivable status, an approach that some analysts have proposed recently to lower the chances of an accidental nuclear war.