Issue Briefs

No Way Out: Why Nuclear Modernization Is Necessary (From Forbes)

No Way Out: Why Nuclear Modernization Is Necessary (From Forbes)

Loren B. Thompson

February 24th, 2021

Last week I participated in an online panel about nuclear modernization. My presentation focused on six slides that summarize why the U.S. has no choice but to modernize its triad of nuclear weapons. The argument comes down to this: (1) There is no effective defense against a large-scale nuclear attack; (2) The U.S. therefore deters attack by threatening unacceptable retaliation, but all the weapons in our triad must soon retire; (3) Maintaining an effective deterrent does not preclude nuclear reductions and costs a small fraction of the defense budget; (4) The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine will host most U.S. warheads in the future because it cannot be destroyed in a surprise attack when at sea; (5) Land-based ballistic missiles need to be modernized because they greatly complicate the challenge of disarming the U.S. in an attack; and (6) Bombers provide flexibility in a crisis, but their cruise missiles are becoming unreliable and must be replaced to successfully penetrate enemy defenses. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.

The views and opinions expressed in this issue brief are those of the author.

Loren B. Thompson is a Senior Adviser at GPI, Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates, a for-profit consultancy. Prior to holding his present positions, he was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Thompson holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.