Air Force Struggles with Sentinel Budget Overruns

United States Air Force
United States Air Force. Credit | REUTERS

United States – In an attempt to replace its oldest nuclear missiles that belongs to the United States Air Force the costs have skyrocketed from as low as USD 95.8 from to over USD $ 160 billion. The program is now called the Sentinel ICBM program and is run by Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC. N) and from a report by Reuters the goal of this project is to upgrade and bring in new the Minuteman III missiles that are currently in service, as reported by HealthDay.

Cost Escalation and Impact

Three insiders: a current U.S. official, an industry veteran, and a legislative aid provided information that it would be USD 65 billion higher than the projection for 2020. Such a considerable increase in costs can even put the Pentagon under pressure to reconsider the project’s scale and duration, as one more market participant stated. According to Bloomberg, the Pentagon is currently engaged in deliberations on altering construction plans, with a new estimate sum reaching USD 141 billion.

Industry and Government Responses

While Northrop Grumman declined to comment on the matter, the Pentagon has committed to releasing a revised cost estimate before midweek, possibly by Tuesday. This new estimate surpasses the USD 131 billion figure disclosed earlier this year by the Air Force, triggering mandatory scrutiny under the Nunn-McCurdy Act, which requires the Pentagon to justify programs whose costs exceed baseline thresholds by more than 25%.

Legislative and Strategic Implications

Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense is likely to present to Congress, the justification for continuing with the Sentinel program under the Nunn-McCurdy Act next week due to the rising cost. The Air Force also argued that Sentinel is vital to preserving the deterrent capability of America as the world changes, as reported by HealthDay.

Impact on Defense Priorities

In addition to the Sentinel program, the Pentagon has solicited cost estimates for Service Life Extension Programs (SLEP) for existing Minuteman III warheads. This financial adjustment may potentially affect other critical Air Force priorities, including advancements in the Next Generation Air Dominance fighter jet program, hypersonic weapon systems, the development of B-21 stealth bombers, and various space-related initiatives.