Nuclear Deterrence Assumptions

Number of Strikes on American Cities: This figure is a raw estimate based on a limited nuclear exchange that quickly leads to peace. A total Nuclear war scenario would likely see this number much higher. If you are considering Nuclear terrorism, you might consider lowering this number to 1 or 2.

Total Cost Incurred per Strike: One study places the cost of a 100KT nuclear attack on New York City at anywhere from $8 trillion to nearly $30 trillion. Smaller cities cost much less, but $5 trillion seems to be a fair estimate. Smaller warheads will cause significantly less damage.

Lives Lost in a Single Strike: ICANW estimates a 12.5KT warhead detonated in NYC harbor would kill 200,000. We will conservatively lower this estimate to 100,000.

Monetary Value of a Life: Valuing a life might seem callous at first, but it is essential when considering investments that make impacts on life and death. The EPA values a human life at $9.1 million while the FDA measures it at $7.9 million. We round the lower value down to get our $7 million figure.

Cost to Deter: According to the Carnegie Endowment, the US spent $52.4 billion on maintaining its nuclear posture and other programs to reduce the threat of nuclear war and proliferation in 2008. We will increase this figure to $60 billion to account for inflation and the costs of upgrading the force.

Annual Chance of War without Deterrence: Measuring in just the 20th century, prior to America's preeminence, Europe broke out into war twice in 45 years. Discounting the 10 years where war was active, that yields a 5.7% chance of war breaking out in any given year. Empirical evidence from Pakistan and India suggests that the arrival of nuclear weapons on the continent likely reduced the chance of conventional war by a factor of 4.7. We assume a 50% chance of a conventional war spiraling to nuclear war. This yields a chance of war without deterrence of .6%.

Annual Chance of War with Deterrence: Since America has defended Europe, no war in Europe has occurred. That is 0 wars during approximately 70 years. For there to have been a 75% chance of this occurring, the annual odds of war in Europe would have had to have been .4%. We assume 50% of those wars would have spiraled to nuclear war. This yields a chance of nuclear war without deterrence of .2%.

Alternative Investment Return: The ROI for non-military, public spending is hard to pin down. But studies have indicated it is likely between 5-10%. The Office of Management and Budget recommends a 7% discount rate. We will follow their recommendation.

Inflation Rate: The long-run, defense-specific inflation rate is 4.25%, going back to 1970.