Rethinking U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy

November 25, 2013

The United States maintains nearly 1,600 deployed nuclear weapons and a triad of systems — bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) — to deliver them. Current plans call for modernizing all three legs of the nuclear triad, which could cost taxpayers over $100 billion. A just-released Cato paper explains why a triad is no longer necessary. U.S. nuclear weapons policies have long rested on Cold War–era myths, and the rationales have aged badly in the two decades since the Soviet Union’s demise. Two of the paper’s authors, Benjamin Friedman and Christopher Preble, will discuss the origins of the nuclear triad and explain why a far smaller arsenal deployed entirely on submarines would be sufficient to deter attacks on the United States and its allies and would save roughly $20 billion annually.

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