Modernizing U.S. Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications

In the new report, the authors provide readers with an insightful look at what is often referred to as the “fifth pillar” of America’s nuclear deterrent capabilities—the nuclear command, control, and communications system (known in Department of Defense parlance as NC3). For the last several years, the need to recapitalize the nuclear enterprise with new submarines, bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles has garnered significant attention. The need for these systems is clear given the current age of the platforms they seek to replace and the demands of the threat environment. However, it is crucial to emphasize no matter how capable these systems may be on an individual level, their true effectiveness can only be realized through a robust, secure command and control enterprise. Today’s nuclear triad relies on a system that is decades old. It is time for a reset.

The authors explain that possession of an effective and robust NC3 system “is essential for deterrence, since its existence will convince potential adversaries that any attempted surprise nuclear aggression will fail and will be met with a devastating response.” Today’s existing NC3 system was designed in response to the threat posed from the Soviet Union and received its last major upgrade in the 1980s. Today’s operating requirements demand a modern system.

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