Fast Facts

The Departments of Energy and Defense expect to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade to sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The agencies are required to estimate the cost of this work over the next 10 years and provide annual updates in a joint report.

We found the departments’ estimates were generally consistent with their internal funding and modernization plans. However, Energy did not include a full 10 years of budget data in the joint report—information that could help Congress understand long-term investment needs.

We recommended that Energy include this information in the future.

U.S. Air Force missile maintainers working on an intercontinental ballistic missile

Two workers near the top of a missile in an enclosure

Two workers near the top of a missile in an enclosure

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Highlights

What GAO Found

We found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) cost estimates were generally consistent with their internal funding and modernization plans. However, DOE did not include a full 10 years of budget data in the joint report as it had in most previous years.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD and DOE, through its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), are undertaking an extensive, multifaceted effort to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities. These capabilities include the nuclear weapons stockpile; the research and production infrastructure; delivery systems; and the nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) system. DOD and DOE estimates show that nuclear sustainment and modernization efforts are expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Section 1043 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, as amended, requires the President, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy, to submit a report on the plan for the nuclear weapons stockpile, complex, delivery systems, and command and control system for each of fiscal years 2013 through 2023. DOD and DOE develop this annual report, which we refer to as the joint report. Section 1043 of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2012, as amended, also includes a provision that we review each joint report for accuracy and completeness with respect to the budget estimates and the methodologies that were used to develop the estimates.

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Recommendations

We recommend that the NNSA Administrator should ensure that the NNSA includes 10 years of budget estimates in one location and comparable format in future joint reports.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Nuclear Security Administration The NNSA Administrator should ensure that NNSA includes 10 years of budget estimates in one location and comparable format in future joint reports. (Recommendation 1)
Closed - Implemented
The fiscal year 2020 joint report, issued in July 2020, included 10 years of NNSA budget estimates in one location and in a comparable format. This result is consistent with our recommendation.

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