Joe Biden ‘is eyeing cuts to America’s $1.2trillion nuclear modernization program

President-elect Joe Biden is eyeing cuts to America’s $1.2 trillion nuclear modernization program and could reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to develop a new warhead, sources have said.

According to CNN, two transition officials and an outside adviser to the incoming administration have said that Biden instead intends to place a greater emphasis on arms control.

The incoming commander in chief plans to reassess the more than $1 trillion nuclear modernization program and determine whether it warrants the large expenditure, the three sources told the news organisation.

According to the experts, the issue is partly due to finances, with the program taking up a large proportion of the Pentagon’s budget that could be allocated to evolving conventional and asymmetric weaponry.

It was reported last week by the Wall Street Journal that Biden was looking at trimming the funding for nuclear weaponry.

Sources have said that President-elect Joe Biden is eyeing cuts to America's $1.2 trillion nuclear modernization program and could reverse the Trump administration's efforts to develop a new warhead

Sources have said that President-elect Joe Biden is eyeing cuts to America’s $1.2 trillion nuclear modernization program and could reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to develop a new warhead

Any large cuts to the program’s budget will likely alarm the more hawkish Republicans and some Democrats who are of the opinion that expanding the US’ nuclear program is critical to national security.

The issue is particular pertinent as a Cold War-era nuclear agreement with Moscow expires just 16 days after Biden takes office on January 20.

Many experts believe that the modernization program has grown bloated under President Donald Trump, CNN reports, and instead sustained increases in overall military spending are required in the coming decades.

The incoming Biden administration instead hopes to renew nuclear talks with Russia and other world powers in an effort to promote arms control, CNN reported.

While Biden works to appoint an arms control tsar, who will be required to go through the long process of confirmation, he is expected to approve a short-term extension to the arms agreement with Moscow known as START.

After this, he would then likely approach Russia for talks over a more long-term agreement, according to a CNN source, who described it as ‘an important issue’ for the President-Elect.

Many experts believe that the modernization program has grown bloated under President Donald Trump (pictured), CNN reports, and instead sustained increases in overall military spending are required in the coming decades

Many experts believe that the modernization program has grown bloated under President Donald Trump (pictured), CNN reports, and instead sustained increases in overall military spending are required in the coming decades

Biden has been an advocate for nonproliferation, and wrote in an essay in March 2020 that he would pursue a new START treaty with Russia  and ‘use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements.’

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Trump administration aimed to spend nearly $500 billion – accounting for inflation adjustments – on maintaining and replacing its nuclear arsenal over the coming decade.

This represents an increase of $100 billion – or about 23 percent – from what it was projected to cost at the end of the Obama administration in 2017.

Experts have estimated that the cost of nuclear modernization could rise about $1 trillion over 30 years, based on current spending levels.

An overhaul of America’s nuclear arsenal has been underway for half a decade, and begun under the Obama administration, which made efforts to replace the planes, submarines and missiles that would be used to launch nuclear weapons.

Trump argued when he took office that a concrete strategy of developing a new US nuclear triad – air, land and sea delivery systems – was overdue – and he began efforts to develop a new land-based intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as new sea-based weapons.

The current president repeatedly signalled his intention to leave the three-decade old New START agreement that is designed to reduce the risk of war between Russia and the west. 

START is set to expire on February 5, 2021, and while the Trump administration tried to reinvigorate the pact in the weeks before the election, negotiations stalled due to failed attempts to bring China to the negotiation table. 

In late October, the U.S. Airforce launched an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California – part of a series of tests. 

The Minuteman III ICBM was equipped with a test reentry vehicle and was launched at 12.27 a.m. on October 29, according to an Air Force news release. Pictured: The Minuteman III missile was successfully launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (Image: Michael Stonecypher)

The Minuteman III ICBM was equipped with a test reentry vehicle and was launched at 12.27 a.m. on October 29, according to an Air Force news release. Pictured: The Minuteman III missile was successfully launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (Image: Michael Stonecypher)

The Minuteman III ICBM was equipped with a test reentry vehicle and was launched at 12.27 a.m. on October 29, according to an Air Force news release at the time.

Officials stressed that the test was planned well in advance and was not a reaction to current events. 

The ICBM’s reentry vehicle travelled 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, at the speed of 15,000mph. A single Minuteman III costs $7 million.

The Minuteman III makes up the Unites States’ land-based ICBM of the nation’s nuclear triad, along with the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and nuclear weapons carried by long-range strategic bombers.

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