U.S. Nuclear Triad: Is It Sustaining the Cold War or 21st Century Framework?

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Johns Hopkins University
On September 28, 1991, President George H. W. Bush directed all nuclear bomber aircraft to “stand down” from day-to-day alert and download their nuclear weapons to return back to the base’s weapons storage areas. Bush also directed an Air Force missile officer crews who oversaw 150 Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to disable their launch control center’s capability to launch them. These ICBMs had been removed from the National War Plan. These actions were part of the forthcoming Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II which would be signed by Bush and Russian Federation (RF) President Boris Yeltsin on January 3, 1993. The treaty would reduce deployed nuclear warheads from approximately 21,000 on both sides to 3-3,500 warheads for each. With this significant reduction 20 years ago, the U.S. and RF continue with thousands of deployed nuclear weapons. The U.S. still continues to program, fund and prioritize the U.S. nuclear triad of ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and bomber aircraft. Why? As Bush stated, the cold war days are over. Presidents in the Nuclear Age have wielded their influence and views on the role of nuclear weapons. They have led through strategic vision, innovation, policies, and treaties on nuclear weapons role in the national security strategy. The nuclear triad has declined in importance from the height of the Cold War, yet it is still perpetuated into the 21st century. To analyze the nuclear triad, one must examine the Department of Defense (DoD) which is its primary proponent. DoD has acted in a predictive bureaucratic manner by clinging to systems and a framework that was successful in the past and perpetuates in the future. This stagnation of the successful and slow, perpetuates the nuclear triad and its associated enterprise infrastructure. Most importantly, clinging to past successful system prevents the U.S. from re-focusing its national security strategy by prioritizing, programming, and funding precious American taxpayer dollars towards the new and different 21st century threats, and emerging and future technologies and capabilities.
Nuclear Triad, Cold War, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Security Summit, Threats