An Alternative U.S. Nuclear Posture Review - "The End of Nuclear Warfighting: Moving to a Deterrence-Only Posture"
The Simons Foundation is pleased to share this important Alternative U.S. Nuclear Posture Review prepared by Bruce G. Blair, Ph.D., one of The Simons Foundation's Peace Leaders, for the Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University and Global Zero, Washington, DC.
Bruce G. Blair, Ph.D.
with Jessica Sleight and Emma Claire Foley
Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Global Zero, Washington, DC
The U.S. should adopt a deterrence-only nuclear policy. Current U.S. nuclear policy is built to enable nuclear warfighting. A vestige of the Cold War, this deterrence-plus-warfighting policy goes beyond legitimate goals of credible national security and risks stimulating a nuclear arms race. With U.S. conventional and cyber forces as de-escalatory options – able to assume some traditionally-nuclear attack assignments – the U.S. can adopt a deterrence-only approach that includes:
- Reducing from a triad of land, air, and sea-based nuclear force to a monad of five new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) backed by a small reserve fleet of 40 strategic bombers;
- Reducing the U.S. stockpile of operationally deployed nuclear warheads by two-thirds to 650 with a reserve force of 450 nuclear warheads;
- Adopting a No-First-Use policy, prohibiting any initial use or threat of use of nuclear weapons for any purpose;
- Modernizing nuclear command, control, and communications (C3) to ensure performance and survivability. Failure to strengthen these networks would weaken presidential control over nuclear forces and perpetuate an unacceptably high risk of miscalculation and launch on false warning;
- De-alerting and phasing out the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile force over the next 10 years and canceling plans for the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) replacement;
- Placing SSBNs on “modified-alert” status, increasing launch readiness from minutes to 24-72 hours; and
- Withdrawing B61 tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, placing them in central storage in the United States
Shifting to a deterrence-only policy:
- ensures nuclear deterrence vis-a-vis Russia, China, and North Korea while greatly reducing the pressure to initiate a preemptive strike, the risk of launch on false warning, and the likelihood of rapid escalation to all-out nuclear war;
- puts the complex responsible for nuclear weapons maintenance and production on a sustainable footing;
- allows billions saved from unnecessary nuclear weapon modernization programs to be reallocated to more pressing security needs; and
- advances the goals of nuclear non-proliferation and phased, verifiable disarmament.
Bruce G. Blair, Ph.D., is Co-Founder of Global Zero, Research Scholar with the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, and one of The Simons Foundation's Peace Leaders.