The United States accounted for over half of the total nuclear weapons spending in 2020. The $37.4 billion that went toward its nuclear arsenal beat the combined expenditure of the eight other nuclear powers, a new report says.

The majority of that whopping sum, roughly 5% of the country’s total military spending last year, was disbursed as defense contracts to private corporations. Nearly a third, around $13.7 billion, was awarded to contractor Northrop Grumman, which is building a new intercontinental nuclear weapons system.

According to the report, titled ‘Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Spending’ and published on Monday by advocacy group International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), nuclear-armed countries collectively spent $72.6 billion on these weapons last year – an uptick of $1.4 billion on the previous year.

The US spent more than three times the figure dished out by its closest competitor, China ($10.1 billion). Russia was listed in third place at $8 billion, while the UK spent around $6.2 billion, the report said.

The ICAB report calculated that nuclear-armed states, which also include France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, together spent more than $137,000 per minute on atomic weapons as the pandemic raged in 2020.

“There’s always more (nuclear spending) out there… even more still lurking in the shadows,” Susi Snyder, managing director of the project ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ and co-author of the report, told The Intercept. Snyder told the outlet that “governments, especially US, UK, (and) France are always demanding ‘transparency’… yet they do not hold themselves to the standards they demand of others.”

More than 20 nuclear weapon developers were found to have profited from existing or new contracts – with 11 Western companies bringing in $27.7 billion in new or modified nuclear-weapons contracts by themselves, the report notes.

Behind Northrop Grumman on this leader board were fellow American firms General Dynamics ($10.8 billion), Lockheed Martin ($2.1 billion), Raytheon Technologies ($450 million) and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory ($342.3 million).

The report also lays bare the realities of this spending cycle which sees governments increasingly channel public money into nuclear contracts. Weapons manufacturers in turn spend increasingly larger amounts on lobbying policy makers – to the tune of nearly $100 million last year – to help nudge budgeting officials towards raising the expenditure.

For every dollar spent last year lobbying governments to raise spending on defense, $236 came back to companies in nuclear weapons contracts, the report states.

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Companies even lobbied to authorize defense funding in Covid-19 relief bills. For instance, the report notes that much of Boeing’s defense lobbying activities were bundled in with lobbying around the US’ $2.2 trillion CARES (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) economic stimulus plan. (RT)