Reliable Security Information

Our Nuclear Forces Must Be Modernized to Remain Credible

Although the Republican Presidential candidates might be focused on digging up dirt from each others' past, the U.S. ought to be worried about another relic from the past- its nuclear arsenal. "The U.S. is the only nuclear power without a substantial nuclear modernization program," write Heritage experts Baker Spring and Michaela Bendikova in "Time to Modernize and Revitalize the Nuclear Triad." Together with reductions under the new START treaty, our aging nuclear force is in desperate need of modernization to remain a credible deterrent. As I have pointed out in previous articles, the Obama administration tries to sound big talking about the need for modernization but has opposed actual legislation at nearly every turn.

The United States must ensure that its nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and effective. The United States guarantees nuclear security to more than 30 countries all over the world. To that end, it needs to guarantee the credibility of its nuclear weapons to deter would be aggressors. The last U.S. nuclear warheads were tested about 20 years ago. It is impossible to certify their reliability forever. The three delivery systems of the U.S. nuclear triad must be modernized as well. The next U.S. heavy bomber should be immediately certified for nuclear missions, and we must replace our ICBs and SLBMs before they are over 60 and 40 years old respectively.

Unfortunately, this Administration's naïve stance of nuclear zero at all costs seems to trump these much needed modernizations. Spring and Bendikova rightly argue that such a stance "is misguided because a nuclear-free world requires the cooperation of other countries. None of the current nuclear-weapon states share this goal or are willing to cooperate substantially in achieving it. In fact, several actors (e.g., Russia and China) are working against this vision by supplying Iran, North Korea, and other rogue nations with sensitive nuclear technologies." Since our enemies get a vote, we must act accordingly and revitalize our nuclear triad.

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