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How Will America’s Next-Generation ICBM Improve Nuclear Deterrence?

Secretary Deborah Lee James

By Deborah Lee James (original source The Cipher Brief) 

“The only remaining U.S. ICBM, the Minuteman III, entered service in 1970. While upgrades have extended the life of the Minuteman III program, the missiles themselves, silos, and command and control systems are all in need of modernization. The Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program will replace these missiles and modernize their facilities to modernize the U.S. ICBM nuclear deterrent. The Cipher Brief spoke to former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to learn more about why this new program is necessary to U.S. national security and how the current fiscal environment could affect this and other Air Force programs.

The Cipher Brief: What will be the role of the new Ground Based Strategic Deterrent for U.S. national security?

Deborah Lee James: The role of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is to replace what is today’s aging Minuteman ICBM system. Backing up for just a moment, deterrence, nuclear deterrence has been a bedrock of U.S. national security for decades. The land-based component, namely the ICBMs, are what is referred to as the reliable and responsive force, underscore the word responsive, which is designed to deter any potential adversary from even thinking about a first strike and to complicate a potential adversary’s decision-making process. That’s the basic idea. I said underscore elements of responsiveness because then you have your other two legs of the triad: the bomber force which is designed to be flexible, it can be recalled and it’s dual-purpose. It can also be conventional. Then there are the submarines which are considered the most survivable. You have responsive, flexible, and survivable. That’s our triad, and it’s been important for decades. It’s going to remain important for decades to come.”

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