As the House Armed Services Committee prepared its fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill this week, one of its subcommittees flagged an issue emblematic of a far broader problem in the nation’s nuclear forces. The Subcommittee on Strategic Forces complained that the Pentagon has failed to provide a roadmap of how it plans to modernize the fleet of E-4B airborne command posts developed to manage a nuclear exchange. Maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent requires more than missiles and bombers that can ride out a surprise attack; it also requires survivable command centers and communications links that can be used to initiate, coordinate and terminate retaliation as circumstances dictate. But the four E-4Bs are getting old and multiple efforts to replace them have faltered, so now the subcommittee wants reports by November 15 explaining how nuclear command functions will be organized in the future, and what that means for the fleet of airborne command posts. Other parts of the nation’s nuclear force posture are in a similarly aged state, and badly in need of renewal. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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