FACT CHECK: Did Obama Spend $1 Trillion ‘To Upgrade The Nuclear Arsenal’?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon claimed that “it was President Obama’s program, [to spend] one trillion dollars to upgrade the nuclear arsenal” in a Sunday interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

“We should be focused on how we bring the Cold War to an end,” Bannon told 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose. Former President Barack Obama echoed similar themes of nuclear armament reduction during the campaign trail and for much of his presidency.

Verdict: True

Bannon’s claim is true. Budget analyses confirm that the Obama administration committed to spending about a trillion dollars for nuclear arms modernization over the next few decades.

Fact Check:

Obama signed House Resolution (H.R.) 2647, or the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010, into law on Oct. 28, 2009. The bill authorized over $680 billion of military spending for the next year and directed the president to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to “modernize the nuclear weapons complex.”

The findings of the defense spending bill’s mandated report manifested in the administration’s commitment to request to spend almost $300 billion to upgrade and expand the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal and equipment. The administration committed to developing and procuring new fleets of nuclear-capable submarines, bomber planes, and inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) systems.

The administration’s almost-$300-billion-figure only accounted for modernization spending over a decade, from 2011 to 2020. According to the James Martin Center For Nonproliferation Studies, this timescale does not capture a bulk of the program’s multi-billion dollar procurements of submarines, planes, and missiles that are slated for after 2024.

The James Martin Center, for instance, estimates that the 30-year cost projection of Obama’s nuclear modernization program hovers between $870 billion to almost $1.1 trillion.

The Arms Control Association, on the other hand, estimates that the modernization program over a 30-year period from 2018 to 2047 will cost between $1.25 and almost $1.5 trillion. (The $1.25 to $1.5 trillion figures are in then-dollars, reflecting the dollar’s future, inflated value.)

Commentators have criticized Obama for his alleged U-turn on nuclear arms policy from his campaign and early presidency days. These discussions aside, however, Bannon’s claim that “it was President Obama’s program” to spend a trillion dollars to “upgrade the nuclear arsenal” is true.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter