Letter sent The Guardian:
Your former defence and security correspondent Richard Norton-Taylor used his15 years coverings defence issues for the Guardian very wisely in his picking apart of the prime minister’s top advisor, ‘classic Dom’ Cummings’ plans to radically review defence and security expenditure, especially procurement (“Dominic Cummings is right – if only about Britain’s dysfunctional defence spending,” 18 December 2019; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/17/dominic-cummings-britain-defence-spending-mod).
But Richard overlooked one huge component of “defence” spending: the renewal of the Trident nuclear WMD system, both submarine carriers/launch platforms and multiple nuclear-tipped missiles.
There is a debate over how much this renewal ie replacement and upgraded modernisation will cost. As a new independent study, released on 17 December by the House of Commons library (The Cost of the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8166) points out: “Ascertaining historical costs for the nuclear deterrent is difficult and complex, as this information is not easily available from public sources. Many records no longer exist, while others were classified. In the past the Government has also often not discussed costs on the grounds of operational security.”
The authors stress that the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) projected that that the costs of design and manufacture of four new Trident submarines will be £31 billion, with an additional £10bn contingency also set aside.If projected lifetime operational, repair and refit costs are added, according to calculations by the Nuclear Educational Trust in a study released in June 2018, this takes the total cost of Trident replacement to between £140bn and £205bn (www.nucleareducationtrust.org/sites/default/files/NET%20Defence%20Diversification%20%20%20%20%20Report.pdf)
This is where the Cummings review needs to start.