As we’ve pointed out elsewhere in our analysis of the President’s FY20 budget request, the $750 billion devoted to “defense” includes more than money that goes directly to the Pentagon. The nuclear weapons programs are funded under the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) which is housed at the Department of Energy.
And, like the Pentagon, NNSA is set to receive a boost in funding. It’s a robust 8.9% increase, from $15.1 billion in FY19 to $16.5 billion in FY20. The meatier details won’t be released until next week, but from what the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made available today, the extra money will go toward “investments in the nuclear stockpile” and investments in “facilities needed to produce strategic materials and components for U.S. nuclear weapons.”
Beginning production of new nuclear warheads and starting to modernize facilities are the camel’s nose under the edge of the tent. If budget history teaches us anything it is that once a program is begun it develops a political constituency and defenders on Capitol Hill, no matter how indefensible that program may be. So this 8.9% increase is likely to be the leading edge in a very steep ramp up of NNSA spending. But that’s the budget sequel to our current feature film.