Think Tank: Time to Consider Nuclear Arms Cuts

A nuclear explosion created by a U.S. atomic weapon. (Photo by Robert Atkins, Getty Images)

The U.S. for decades has maintained the ability to launch a nuclear weapon in three ways: Dropping one from a bomber aircraft; Launching one from a submarine; or via a ground-based missile.

But with annual Pentagon budgets set to shrink, some in Washington are wondering whether maintaining all three parts of the so-called “nuclear triad” is necessary.

After the Nov. 6 presidential and congressional elections, some Washington insiders expect a year of debate about how nuclear weapons should factor into America’s national security strategy.

Many Republicans will argue for maintaining the existing U.S. atomic arsenal, including keeping the triad intact. Democrats, however, will say the triad is too pricey and strategically outdated.

Congressional offices, consultancies and think tanks are quietly mulling which side to join — and which one gains the upper hand (read: votes) in the coming congressional elections.

The American Security Project, a think tank that touts itself as nonpartisan, in a report out Oct. 9 dips a toe into the side of the pool favoring nuclear arms cuts.

“Plans to modernize the three legs of the nuclear triad – the air, sea, and ground based nuclear delivery systems – are moving forward, [although] the need for all three
platforms is still unclear,” states the ASP report.

To help inform decision-makers, the Washington think tank suggests what Washington think tanks often suggest: The winner of the presidential election to do what else, a study.

“The next president will also have an opportunity to conduct a review of the U.S. nuclear force posture,” ASP notes. “In addition to setting guidelines for nuclear targeting and other procedures, this review [would represent] a unique opportunity to rethink the size and shape of the U.S. arsenal – specifically the nuclear triad.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett