President Trump’s chest-thumping claim on Wednesday that America’s nuclear arsenal is “now stronger and more powerful than ever before” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Trump, amid a heated war of words with North Korea in which he promised to unleash “fire and fury,” bragged in a tweet that his first order as President was to renovate and modernize U.S. nuclear capabilities.
While Trump did order a new review of the U.S. nuclear posture, in an executive order in January, the review is nowhere near complete.
Such reviews are commonplace actions that all recent presidents have ordered upon entering office — and are legislatively mandated.
The Department of Defense website for the “Nuclear Posture Review” has not been updated since Trump became President, as Politifact.com pointed out still has a photo and “notable quote” from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on it.
“The nuclear arsenal is the same as it was the day before Inauguration Day,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
According to a fact sheet from the Federation of American scientists, the U.S. currently has 6,800 warheads.
Roughly 2,800 of them are retired, 4,000 are stockpiled, and 1,800 are deployed.
The total number of warheads is second only to Russia, which currently has 7,000.
Under the 2011 New START treaty that President Obama signed with Russia, Washington and Moscow have agreed to limit the number of deployed weapons.
Trump’s posturing, which began on Tuesday while he was vacationing at his New Jersey golf resort, began after The Post reported that U.S. intelligence analysists have determined that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead.
Last month, Pyongyang tested a pair of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can theoretically reach the U.S. mainland.
Nine countries have or are believed to have nuclear weapon capabilities, according to the Arms Control Association.
Besides the U.S. and Russia, England, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea are all believed to be armed with nukes.
Trump’s executive order did not promise any additional funds to America’s aging arsenal.
His predecessor, meanwhile, pledged billions of dollars to modernizing and updating the program — but any improvements are still in the early stages.
Even with those promises, there is a $ 3.7 billion backlog in deferred essential repairs to U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure, which is overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration, an arm of the Department of Energy.
NNSA director Frank Klotz told a House Armed Services Committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee in March that the agency’s infrastructure is “antiquated.”
“NNSA is presently busier than we have been for many, many years” but “operations are subject to increasing risk,” he added.
Much of the infrastructure supporting the weapons program was built nearly 60 years ago.
Labs, production facilities and storage sites are in desperate need of updating.
President Trump’s proposed budget, unveiled in March, promises a $ 1.4 billion budget increase for the National Nuclear Security.
But there have been no significant changes in America’s nuclear power since Trump took over.
Modernizing America’s aging nuclear arsenal is a long and expensive undertaking that is projected to take decades.
“Over the next decade, the US government plans to spend nearly $ 350 billion on modernizing and maintaining its nuclear forces and the facilities that support them,” according to a January edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that nuclear forces will cost $ 400 billion between 2015 and 2024.
Newly designed warheads alone are set to enter formal development in “2020 with first delivery in 2030 and production continuing through the early 2040s at a cost of around $ 15 billion,” according to an Energy Department report cited by the BAS.
The Associated Press in 2013 documented a range of problems in the Minuteman 3 missile force, including numerous morale, training, discipline and leadership shortfalls that have beset the nuclear force in recent years, especially among those who operate, maintain and protect the weapons.
The Air Force began implementing what it calls a “force improvement plan” to boost morale, increase resources and attempt to eliminate the stigma that had become attached to the nuclear missile career field, which many saw as a dead end and much less rewarding than being a pilot.
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Pentagon would invest $ 108 billion over the next five years, saying the department was committed to correcting decades of short-changing the nuclear force.
Send a Letter to the Editor