Center for Political Awareness

Skyrocketing Cost of US Nuclear Missile Program Spurs Reckoning

This is the first story in a series about Sentinel, the Air Force’s nuclear missile modernization project. (Click image for article.)

Photo: Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

 

This is the first story in a series about Sentinel, the Air Force’s nuclear missile modernization project. Other stories will touch on how the project is impacting local communities and tension over plutonium pit production for the new missiles.

In the last years of the Obama administration, a debate rippled across Washington. The U.S. could continue life-extending the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which at the time had been deployed for close to 50 years, or modernize the system in a major overhaul. 

Facing pressure from lawmakers, then-President Obama in 2016 elected to modernize the entire nuclear triad: land-based ICBMs, submarines and bomber planes. 

While the estimated trillion-dollar price tag drew headlines, the actual cost of the unprecedented effort could far exceed that amount, given the ICBM modernization — now called Sentinel — continues driving up costs.

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