U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday suggested that modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal includes increasing the number of weapons.
In an energy policy discussion hosted by NBC and Axios in Washington, D.C., moderator Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” asked Perry, “Does beefing up mean the same as modernization?”
“It does to me,” Perry responded, adding that there was a “semantic issue here,” reports our sister publication, ExchangeMonitor.
Perry offered his comments two days after the Congressional Budget Office projected it would cost $1.2 trillion to update and maintain the nuclear stockpile over the next three decades.
The Trump administration inherited its predecessor’s program to build replacements for today’s nuclear triad of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, and long-range strategic bombers.
While post-Cold War administrations have drastically reduced the size of the active and reserve arsenal, President Donald Trump has reportedly expressed his desire for a far larger stockpile.
As of September, the U.S. had 1,393 nuclear warheads deployed on 660 long-range delivery systems. Roughly 200 U.S. tactical nuclear bombs are also deployed at several NATO bases in Europe. Several thousand nuclear weapons also remain in reserve.
The Pentagon is expected by the end of this year or early 2018 to issue a new Nuclear Posture Review, which would set the nation’s nuclear arms policy for up to a decade.
The Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is charged with sustaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal through its stockpile stewardship program. It receives about $10 billion for this work each year, which is the vast majority of the NNSA’s budget and about one-third of the overall DOE annual funding.
Modernization could mean any number of things, Perry said, including higher numbers, increased kill tonnage, and greater efficiency: “I think it’s all of the above.”
“I think what the president wants is a country who has the nuclear deterrent in place to keep America safe,” Perry added.