US Plans to Modernize Nuclear Triad are ‘Foolish’
WASHINGTON — The United States is modernizing its nuclear Triad with particular emphasis on US Air Force needs.
“I think starting this round of a new nuclear arms race is extremely foolish and it is based on a lack of understanding,” Perry said. “We are talking about huge expenditures here and it is hardly being discussed or debated and we’re just going ahead with it.”
In October 2015, Northrop Grumman, a US global aerospace and defense technology company, was awarded a development contract to build the next generation B-21 strategic bomber, while Lockheed Martin and Boeing said they planned to submit proposals to develop the GBSD ICBM.
“Nobody really knows what the cost is [for these systems] but people drop figures like $1 trillion,” Perry stated. “But I don’t know what the right number is — if anything, it [$1 trillion] is on the low side.”
Cost considerations are secondary in the new nuclear arms race, Perry noted.
“I’m trying to make people aware of just how dangerous, how really dangerous, this damn business is,” Perry said. “People don’t relate to that and they think it is just another issue of whether we should build these bombers or build these missiles or not.”
The weakness in the US nuclear Triad is the silo-based ICBM’s providing adversaries with known target locations and would be most likely to precipitate a nuclear war, Perry observed.
“If there is a nuclear war, they [ICBM’s] would be the first targets and the problem here is that we know all that and therefore in our alert system, if we see an indication of a launch coming we have to decide whether to launch those ICBM’s right away,” Perry stated. “The ICBM’s are the only ones that pose that particular problem.”
Nuclear Security Tougher Than Cold War Era Due to Cyberthreats
Ensuring the security of nuclear weapons is harder today than during the Cold War years because of the looming cyberthreats that might compromise nuclear weapons command and control systems or lead to an accidental launch.
“It is harder today than it was during the Cold War and there is the danger of cyber confusion or some cyber mistake,” Perry said. “Or someone playing malicious games with cyber and going after our command and control systems.”
The reappearance of Cold War-era nuclear brinkmanship, Perry observed, combined with emerging cyber vulnerabilities makes the likelihood of human or software errors, false alarms, and accidental launches more likely.
“The danger was, and is… that we will go to war by accident,” Perry said. “During the Cold War, one [accident] which looked very, very real and had people convinced it was the real thing was caused by an operator putting a training tape in the computer system and, of course, the training tape was designed to look real, so that was a human error.”
Human errors and false alarms will happen again, and when they do, the president will have just a few minutes to decide whether he or she is going to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Perry noted.
Perry was the 19th US Secretary of Defense, serving from February 1994 to January 1997. He is also the author of “My Journey to the Nuclear Brink” and director of the Preventative Defense Project at Stanford University in the US state of California.
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