Budget cuts cause B61-12 nuclear bomb delays

The National Nuclear Safety Administration announced on Thursday that it anticipated additional delays in the production and delivery of the B61-12 nuclear bomb because of so-called sequestration budget cuts.

NNSA Acting Administrator Neile Miller testified last week before the House Energy and Water Subcommittee and said that the anticipated $600 million reduction of the agency's weapons activities budget could slow the B61-12 LEP and other programs for weapons. The first delivery date set for the bomb was 2017. Miller said that production could potentially slip into the 2020s.

The B61 LEP is the most complex and expensive warhead modernization program since the Cold War. Cost estimates range from $8 billion to more than $10 billion, a major increase from a $4 billion estimate in 2010.

The price increase led to Congressional questions and attempts to trim the program. Proponents of the program argue that the weapon is necessary to provide extended nuclear deterrence to NATO and Asian allies. With the mission in Europe fading out, the cheaper alternative may be retaining the B61-7 for the B-2A bomber and retiring other B61 version.

The B61-12 program adds a guided tail kit to increase accuracy and target kill capacity, adds unknown new safety and security features, incorporates selected components from three other B61 versions, and extends the life of the tactical B61-4 warhead.