Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2015-2016
Just in time to bolster the message of Nukewatch’s newly published Revised Edition of Nuclear Heartland, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry has called for the complete elimination of the remaining Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
Defense News reports that Mr. Perry, who was Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton, said December 3, “Today … we now face the kind of dangers of a nuclear event like we had during the Cold War, an accidental war.”
“Nuclear weapons no longer provide for our security, they endanger it.”
—William J. Perry
“The greatest source of that danger, to Perry’s mind, are the ICBMs,” Defense News noted, “which he said are simply too easy to launch on bad information and would be the most likely source of an accidental nuclear war. He referred to the ICBM as ‘destabilizing’ in that it invites an attack from another power.”
ICBMs, Sec. Perry concluded, “aren’t necessary … they’re not needed. Any reasonable definition of deterrence will not require that third leg.” The reference is to a nuclear weapons “triad” with submarines, bombers and missiles as “legs” of a three-part arsenal.
We note likewise in Nuclear Heartland, Revised that Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, who was Vice Commander of US Strategic Command—which controls the ICBMs—has said, “The greatest threat to my force is an accident. The greatest risk to my force is doing something stupid.”
Perry’s analysis echoes that of other high-level military officials who have called for getting rid of the Minuteman IIIs.
A group of high-level military and political leaders chaired by General James Cartwright, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former Commander of US nuclear forces, published a report in 2012 which was signed by Senator Chuck Hagel who would later become Secretary of Defense. This study concluded that a total of 450 warheads deployed on submarines and heavy bombers with none left on ICBMs would constitute a massive enough nuclear arsenal.
The William J. Perry Project website notes that Secretary Perry has said, “A lifetime immersed in special access to and top-secret assessment of strategic nuclear options has given me a unique, and chilling, vantage point from which to conclude that nuclear weapons no longer provide for our security, they endanger it.”