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​Even Montgomery (left) of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, that ​nuclear modernization is going to get more expensive but actual numbers are elusive. He spoke alongside Clark Murdock of CSIS at ASC15. Staff photo by Kristina Parrill.

​The cost of nuclear modernization is going to grow in the coming years, but the total price tag is debatable and often varies considerably depending on the timeline considered, the capabilities included, and the assumptions made, said Evan Montgomery, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, at ASC15 on Monday. CSBA estimates the annual cost of the United States’ nuclear forces will increase by about 50 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the next 12 years and “tail off” to “today’s levels” around 2030, said Montgomery. “It sounds like a lot, and it is a lot, but even if you assume that [Budget Control Act] caps will remain in effect indefinitely, nuclear forces will still only account for about five percent of the total defense budget, even during those peak spending years,” he said. “In addition, potential savings from reductions in nuclear force structure or deferral of modernization will mostly occur after the BCA expires, which is something a lot of people miss. In a recent study, CSBA developed several “hypothetical savings options,” including some that involved “pretty significant cuts in force structure,” noted Montgomery. Even if added all together, Montgomery said it would save about $15 billion to $20 billion over the next five years. “The bottom line then is that unless you want to radically and quickly slash the US nuclear arsenal, cuts aren’t going to save you much money when you actually need to save it,” he said. ​​​