Home / Charli Carpenter / USAF Strategists: US Should Drastically and Unilaterally Reduce Nuclear Arsenal

USAF Strategists: US Should Drastically and Unilaterally Reduce Nuclear Arsenal


This is in the fresh issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly. (HT to MacGregor Eddy.) In sum:

America’s nuclear security can rest easily on a relatively small number of counterforce and countervalue weapons totaling just over 300. Moreover, it does not matter if Russia, who is America’s biggest competitor in this arena, follows suit. The relative advantage the Russians might gain in theory does not exist in reality. Even if one were to assume the worst—a bolt from the blue that took out all of America’s ICBMs—the Russians would leave their cities at risk and therefore remain deterred from undertaking the first move.

Read the supporting arguments here.

Some context from The Wonk Room:

The bold proposal comes as the Administration is finalizing their Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and a new START Treaty, which hill watchers expect to encounter loud conservative opposition. This new proposal should serve as a major boon to arms control advocates in the coming debates and should embolden the White House to push for a bolder NPR.

The article in Strategic Studies Quarterly is not an isolated ivory tower scholarly piece divorced from the actual strategic thinking taking place inside the Air Force. Two of the authors – James Forsyth and Gary Schaub – are professors at war colleges at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. The Air Force war colleges are not known for their independence and free-thinking, as they are generally seen as much less free wheeling than other services war colleges. But more surprising is the third author, Colonel B. Chance Saltzman, who is the chief of the Strategic Plans and Policy Division at Headquarters Air Force. Saltzman is therefore an integral figure in determining Air Force strategy and works closely with General Norton Schwartz the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. In short, this article is not by some Air Force outsiders, but from very influential insiders.

Further commentary here.

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