The Air Force’s announcement Monday that it is moving to the next step in securing a successor to the aging Minuteman III missile force is much more important than White House disclosure of a new strategy for Afghanistan the same day. Deterring the existential threat of nuclear war is our military’s most important mission, and Cold War ballistic missiles that help accomplish that goal won’t be able to function safely for much longer. By giving risk reduction contracts to Boeing and Northrop Grumman, the Air Force assured it would benefit from relevant expertise that the companies have been accumulating since they first became involved in building and supporting intercontinental ballistic missiles in the 1950s. Silo-based missiles are a crucial part of the nuclear triad, because they greatly complicate the challenge an aggressor would face in trying to disarm America in a surprise attack. Having the secure capacity to retaliate after absorbing such an attack is the sine qua non of nuclear deterrence — the best solution we have found to date for assuring U.S. survival in the nuclear age. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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