My Reality Check About Nuclear Weapons

I’ve now been working at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Council for a Livable World for about three weeks. Since joining, I have been educating myself on nuclear weapons, defense spending, among other issues and policies we work to highlight.

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFPN) -- Munitions on display show the full capabilities of the B-52 Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

In my time within this community, I’ve realized that non-profit organizations like ours work dedicatedly to educate the public and policymakers about pressing issues of national security and nuclear non-proliferation. Yet there’s still a world of people (I certainly was among them) who remain oblivious to a threat that is so alarming that it could keep any sane person up at night. The threat I’m referring to is the risk of nuclear catastrophe, which experts believe is greater today than at the height of the Cold War.

Let’s take a step back and try to comprehend what that means. At a time when ads like Duck and Cover – How to Survive a Nuclear Attack, and How to Protect Yourself from Nuclear Fallout and Survive an Atomic Attack were commonplace and people prepared for the possibility of surviving a nuclear attack, we were less likely to have a nuclear incident than we are today.

After the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia made strides towards reducing their nuclear arsenal thanks to several treaties and unilateral actions.

But since the second term of the Obama administration, little progress has been made to reduce the stockpile of deployed nuclear weapons. Instead, the U.S. is now on the precipice of a new nuclear arms race. There is no doubt a need for investment in securing existing nuclear weapons, as the documentary Command and Control brings to life the chilling nightmare of how close we have come, repeatedly, to nuclear accidents in the U.S.

But investing in securing the existing nuclear arsenal is very different from investing in upgrading a nuclear triad of bombers, ground-based ballistic missiles, and sea-based ballistic missiles, under the guise of modernization. Do we really need a nuclear triad in the 21st century? The U.S. may be able to eliminate the ground-based ballistic missile leg of the triad while preserving a credible nuclear deterrent on bombers and submarines. The staggering cost (approximately $1 trillion) of modernizing the entire triad should convince Congress to evaluate whether all three legs are necessary for robust deterrence.

While I’m still wrapping my head around these pertinent issues, I am glad to have some help to better understand them. Former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry, will be teaching a free online course through Stanford University on Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today; an introduction to nuclear weapons, proliferation, policy, terrorism, and where we are today. The course begins from October 4, 2016 and has no prerequisites.

I am committed to continuing my education and work in the field, and I am excited to disseminate thought-provoking information on behalf of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Council for a Livable World to others who perhaps remain unaware of the ever-present dangers of nuclear weapons. I encourage you to follow and engage with us on Facebook and Twitter, give us feedback about what we share, and what you would like to know more about.


Hazel Correa
Communications Director

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