Cost of Arms Race Put at $4 Trillion the Brookings Institution Attacks Notion That U.S. Got `Biggest Bang for the Buck'

By Ralph Vartabedian 1995, Los Angeles Times | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 13, 1995 | Go to article overview

Cost of Arms Race Put at $4 Trillion the Brookings Institution Attacks Notion That U.S. Got `Biggest Bang for the Buck'


Ralph Vartabedian 1995, Los Angeles Times, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


THE NUCLEAR ARMS RACE has cost the United States nearly $4 trillion, a staggering financial toll that was never disclosed to the American public, according to a major study by the Brookings Institution.

The study attacks the Cold War wisdom that nuclear weapons provided the nation with a cheap way to deter its enemies following the detonation of the first atomic bomb 50 years ago this Sunday in New Mexico.

"There was a presumption that nuclear weapons gave the biggest bang for the buck, but nobody was counting the bucks," said Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear waste expert who took part in the Brookings study. "What got counted officially was just 10 percent of the real cost."

The Brookings study, released Tuesday, marks the first systematic effort to tabulate the cost of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, as well as the vast spending on related technology that never resulted in deployed weapons.

The report's authors contend that the size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile - and its subsequent cost - were determined arbitrarily, fueled by interservice rivalries in the armed forces, pork barrel politics in Congress, and broad governmental secrecy.

The actual cost of producing roughly 70,000 nuclear bombs since World War II was only a small part of a much larger strategic effort to build missiles, bombers and the sophisticated national control systems that put forces on 24-hour nuclear alert, the study states.

The study breaks down approximate costs this way:

$375 billion for the bombs. …

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