No Fundamental Change

Support for the nuclear triad remains strong within the Pentagon, said Maj. Gen. William Chambers, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. “I don’t think the fundamental change that would call for us to reconsider the three legs of the triad has taken place,” said Chambers in a recent interview. That’s despite tightening defense budgets and recent appeals in some circles outside of the Defense Department for additional reductions in US nuclear forces—even elimination of the ICBM force. Chambers said he’s actually sensed “a strengthening of the consensus” within military circles in the past year or so that the triad is “actually even more important” as the United States draws down its arsenal to the New START caps, and, potentially at some later point, goes to lower levels beyond New START. “I think that is based on the fact that we’ve now argued well that the attributes—in particular of our two legs of the triad—actually are well-tailored for the new strategic environment,” said Chambers. The Air Force’s nuclear-capable bombers, for example, offer “a tremendous amount of flexibility” and visibility. The ICBM force is “stabilizing,” “lethal,” “responsive,” and “highly credible,” he said.