A Just-Released Watchdog Report Makes the Case for Eliminating Land-Based Nuclear Missiles

Nuclear weapons are back in style in official Washington. The Pentagon is in the midst of a $2 trillion, three-decade-long effort to build a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines, and the weapons lobby and its allies in Congress are pressing to spend even more.

Thankfully, a new report from the government watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) offers a refreshing counterpoint to this rush towards a new nuclear arms race, explaining in persuasive detail why the centerpiece of the Pentagon’s new buildup, the Sentinel ICBM, is dangerous, unaffordable, and unnecessary. The late Daniel Ellsberg and Norman Solomon made this point forcefully in an October 2021 piece in The Nation, noting that eliminating ICBMs was the easiest and fastest way to reduce “the overall danger of nuclear war.

Being the good taxpayer protection group that it is, TCS starts by pointing out the immense cost of the Sentinel program, which is now estimated to be at least $315 billion over the lifetime of the system, including an astonishing 37 percent increase in projected acquisition costs over just the past two years. The cost overrun is so large that it has triggered a reevaluation of the program under the Nunn-McCurdy Act, which serves as a sort of early warning system regarding runaway weapons costs. A Pentagon report on the issue is due early next month. This is a perfect moment to think twice about whether to build a new ICBM, or whether ICBMs are needed at all. The TCS report does just that.

The bottom line of the new analysis is that nuclear warheads deployed on bombers and submarine-based ballistic missiles are more than sufficient to deter any nation from attacking the United States. Steve Ellis, the president of TCS, underscored this point upon the release of the organization’s new report: “We have over 1,300 nuclear warheads deployed on ballistic missile submarines, bombers, and fighters, many of which are more powerful than the warheads planned for deployment on the Sentinel. At a projected cost of $315 billion over its lifecycle, the Sentinel is a redundancy we don’t need at a price we can’t afford.”