Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Does The U.S. Have Enough Deployed Nuclear Weapons?


Walter Pincus, Washington Post: It seems the Pentagon can never have enough deployed nuclear warheads

Rhetoric about nuclear weapons is heating up between Washington and Moscow, but there is no need to reinstate the foolish and wasteful arms race that dominated the Cold War period.

For one reason, the security challenges have changed.

Having 1,500 or more deployed U.S. nuclear warheads on land- or sea-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs or missiles, will not help a U.S. president defeat terrorists or deal with proxy wars somewhere in the world — or even protect American assets in the new confrontational arenas of space and cyberspace.

There also are the astronomical costs for modernizing not just the current triad of delivery systems — the strategic submarines, bombers and land-based ICBMs — but also continuing the life-extension programs for the nuclear stockpile and upgrading the nuclear weapons-building complex itself.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the cost for all that modernization would average $18 billion a year from 2021 through 2035 — or $252 billion over that 14-year period.

Previous Post: Should the US Spend $1 Trillion On Nuclear Weapons?

WNU Editor: I suspect that this debate is now starting .... and for good reason .... nuclear forces are expensive to develop , manufacture, and maintain .... and with a looming $1 trillion price tag for the U.S. taxpayer .... some hard questions (and discussions) will need to take place.


B.Poster said...

In order to be an effective deterrent we need to have a bare minimum of 1.500 nuclear weapons. Keep in mind this is the bare minimum, it assumes everything operates perfectly with nothing going wrong, and it assumes no other nations are under a so called "nuclear umbrella."

As such, since things do go wrong and certain nations do seem to be under a so called American "nuclear umbrella" and things go wrong, we are going to obviously need more than this. Additionally, Russia has developed a nuclear weapons defense capability and they are working to improve it. As it is now, this system far exceeds anything America has at its disposal. As such, we are going to need significantly more than 1,500.

Additionally America is going to need a robust nuclear deterent to overcome significant conventional edges enjoyed by Russia and China. As such, America will need to rely more on a nuclear weapons capability in the coming years than those nations will. While I cannot say for certain, just how many are needed, given what it needs to do and the obstacles to overcome, I would think a fair number would be around 4,500 would need to be deployed and active in order to have the deterent we need. If we continue to insist upon stupidly trying to provide a nuclear umbrella for other nations, we would probably need three times this amount.

It seems we have a long way to get where we need to be. Funding is part of the problem. For starters, I'd suggest scrapping the F-35 program and extending the service lives of tried and true weapons and weapons systems such as the A-10.

I agree we need to have a debate on this. This debate needs to occur without the anti-nuclear weapons hysteria that typically accompanies such debates. For what its worth, I think countries such as Canada, Australia, and Canada along with several others should get to work on developing nuclear arsenals of their own.

The idea that we are going to be able to halt nuclear weapons proliferation is a ridiculous one. It's going to be easier and more realistic to expect one could get toothpaste back in the tube so to speak than to expect nuclear weapons proliferation can be halted. It's best not waste energy and precious resources on trying to achieve that which cannot be achieved. A better approach is to recognize reality and work within it and not work within what we wish reality is.

B.Poster said...

"and Canada" I meant to type "and Japan." I'd also add Germany to that list as well. These countries need to be developing their own nuclear weapons programs.