Task Force Should Look at Other Nuclear Deterrent Options

The Washington Times, p. A18.

Letter-to-the-Editor
December 16, 1998

The Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence ("Pentagon asks for nuclear upgrade," December 4) does not seem to be aware that the Cold War is over and that the nuclear dangers from Russia today are associated with the imminent possibility of a collapse and not with the possibility of a new threatening buildup.

The panel's reported perception that taking Russian and U.S. missiles off launch-on-warning alert would be "unilateral disarmament" is bizarre. Insisting that Russia keep its missiles on hair-trigger alert when their control systems are not being maintain ed and Russia's military is not being paid is the height of irresponsibility. Rut Russia will not de-alert its missiles unless the U.S. does.

The panel's reported concern that de-alerting "would undermine deterrence" reveals that they have not bothered to look seriously at detailed de-alerting proposals such as that which one of us co-authored in the November 1997 issue of Scientific American. According to that proposal, the U.S. would keep 600 invulnerable nuclear warheads on ballistic missile submarines at sea. Each warhead is ten times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.

It might take ten hours to prepare all those warheads for launch but that fact would be small comfort for any nation that was considering attacking the U.S.

Charles Ferguson
Research Analyst
Federation of American Scientists
Washington

Frank von Hippel
Professor of Public and International Affairs
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ