Washington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & Security
Washington, DC 20001
The United State nuclear modernization program: Why cutting it is a risk?

The tensions between China and Russia are increasing day by day since the Cold War. Many dictators with nuclear weapons are challenging United State power. Some places are at the top of line such as Ukraine, the Middle East, the South China Sea, and the Korean Peninsula. After all of this, why are some American politicians suggesting we should reduce our nuclear weapons?

Now the United States has decided to update its nuclear weapons and recently break the 35-year pause. For this purpose many defense officials are currently working on it. They are working on the program to replace old Cold War-era nuclear weapons with new warheads, missiles, bombers, and submarines.

About a decade ago,many of these security systems should have been replaced or updated. Some of them even date back during the period of Ronald Reagan Presidency.  But because maintenance was put off for so long, the U.S. is now having to upgrade everything at once. This update is going to be expensive and require money along with new ideas. 

From 1989, if a homeowner has not seriously taken care of their home,  they can’t just replace a few shingles on the roof after 35 years. In order to update their lifestyle they will need to buy a whole new roof, plus a water heater, refrigerator, electrical box, furnace, and air conditioner all at once, because they can’t avoid these repairs anymore.

In order to combat the new challenges, the nuclear modernization program is urgently needed. 

The nuclear modernization program is urgently needed. Russia has more tactical nuclear weapons as compared to the United States. This is the reason that Russia presents major threats.  At the same time, China is also increasing its nuclear power. This nation is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal by adding 100 new warheads each year, aiming to achieve nuclear parity within the next decade.

It is informed to Congress through the Strategic Posture Commission that our current modernization efforts are not enough to deal with strategic attacks. No doubt that it is crucial but not sufficient. The Commission also advised that it is important to take serious consideration in order to expand out nuclear power. 

At the same time, some participants of the discussion suggest that the United States  should cut back on this “necessary but not enough” program.

For example, recently there was a meeting held between Senator Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro. In this meeting they discussed the  development of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile.  He expressed concerns that this new missile would require our ships to carry fewer torpedoes, potentially reducing our combat effectiveness. Furthermore, Kelly argued, “The probability of us using a torpedo against a warship is much higher than the probability of using a nuclear launched cruise missile.”

The requirement of nuclear deterrent is compulsory due to preventing a war with another nuclear-armed power from happening in the first place. Nowadays, the US and China both are in a serious conflict with each other, where both sides are destroying each other’s ships. It’s even more important to deter China from escalating to the nuclear level.

At the same time, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) wrote an article advocating for the US, “reduce the total number of land-based ICBMs” (intercontinental ballistic missiles) as a means to save money.”

Smith’s idea is totally correct that the nuclear modernization program is costly. It requires approximately $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years. Well, this is a small part of the $855 billion defense budget (about 7%, or $50 billion per year), which itself makes up roughly 13.5% of the total federal budget.

It is not good for the United States to reduce its nuclear modernization in the period where the nuclear threats from Beijing, Moscow, and Pyongyang are increasing day by day. Our allies rely on America’s nuclear strength, while our adversaries respect America’s deterrent power.

Without a credible nuclear deterrent, the U.S. risks becoming a secondary nuclear power within a decade. China and Russia, the remaining nuclear superpowers, might see the U.S. as not worth engaging in strategic talks or arms control.


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