U.S. nuclear weapon program over budget, years behind schedule | WORLD
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U.S. nuclear weapon program over budget, years behind schedule

The U.S. Air Force in 2016 conducted a test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III missile. Associated Press/U.S. Air Force

U.S. nuclear weapon program over budget, years behind schedule

The Pentagon on Monday said the Sentinel weapons system project is now expected to cost nearly $141 billion, 81 percent more than estimated four years ago. The new intercontinental ballistic missiles program is intended to replace aging Minuteman III missiles. It is the first major upgrade in more than 60 years to the land-based part of the United States’ nuclear program, which also includes strike capabilities by airplane and submarine. Air Force officials in January said the Sentinel project would increase to at least $131 billion, a change that triggered the Nunn-McCurdy Act. The 1982 law requires the Pentagon to review and justify to Congress the importance of a program when the program’s costs increase by 25 percent or more.

What did the review find? Most of the cost growth stems from launch facilities, launch centers, and the process of converting from Minuteman III to Sentinel, said Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante. He directed the Air Force to restructure the program to manage and control costs in the future, a process that will delay the project by several years. LaPlante also rescinded approval for the program to enter the engineering and manufacturing development phase.

Despite the high costs and delays, LaPlante said it is vital that the United States modernize its nuclear forces amid growing global threats.

What is included in the program? In addition to building new missiles, the military will also modernize 450 existing launch facilities across five states, and decommission and dispose of the Minuteman III systems. Sentinel will extend the country’s land-based nuclear capabilities through 2075, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

Dig deeper: Listen to Mary Reichard and William Inboden’s report on The World and Everything in It about strengthening ties between Russia and North Korea.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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