Guest blogger: Chuck Goergen
Not only do we Americans rely on our nuclear weapon umbrella as a deterrent to enemy threats, countries across the world are trusting their security to being under our nuclear umbrella. Is it getting threadbare? If it ever had to be exercised, how sure are we it would perform its function? The nuclear triad is getting old. You could argue that there have been no new system designs or nuclear testing since the late 1980s/early 1990s. There have been rebuilds and life extension programs but there is no capability to do any large-scale production of the nuclear cores. The nuclear infrastructure that built our current stockpile no longer exists. Some might argue the skills have also atrophied.
There is not a contention that the stockpile is non-functional. Each year the heads of NNSA’s weapons labs sign assurance memos that their designed systems will perform if called upon. The science based stockpile is a projection. Weapon system lifetimes are being extrapolated (versus interpolated) as we have never been in this situation. With the gravitas of how we rely on this deterrent to stabilize world politics, how sure are we? What level of confidence of performance reliability do we need: 50/50, 75/25, 95/5, 99.5/0.5 or higher?
Most of the authorizations for the current stockpile date back to Jimmy Carter, who was focused on improving the safety of the stockpile. Could new systems be designed that take advantage of advances in technology since the 1990s? Compare the advances in phones, cars, radios, TV, computers, etc. since the 1980s. There are proliferant countries in the world that have active nuclear weapon development programs. What if there were a breakout? Would the United States be able to mobilize to answer the threat? Will our stockpile be a reliable deterrent?
America’s Nuclear Umbrella is getting old. My viewpoint would be that the whole system needs a comprehensive review.