Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant: Making the ICBM force more affordable, survivable, and controllable are perhaps the best ways to help it withstand its biggest potential nearer term threat: the budget axe, said Richard Colby, principal analyst at CNA. Speaking Sept. 18 at AFA’s Air & Space Conference outside of Washington, D.C., Colby said ICBM critics may argue, in an era of fiscal austerity, that money spent on the ICBMs would not yield the same value as investing in areas like the F-35 or ballistic missile defense. Therefore, it’s important to make the ICBM force more capable and increase its contribution to “the overall attributes of the future strategic deterrent,” he said. For example, since ballistic missile submarines may become more vulnerable in coming years, bolstering the ICBMs’ survivability would enhance the overall deterrent and strengthen their role in it, he said. Therefore, approaches like mobile basing might make sense for a future ICBM, he said. Further, while US nuclear forces are today “highly controllable,” advances in cyber threats may make control less assured at some point, so enhancing ICBM command and control would also strengthen the deterrent. Colby, who supports maintaining an effective triad for the future, was part of the panel discussion on the role of the ICBM force in 21st century deterrence.