Empty Silos: Eliminating the ICBM From the U.S. Nuclear Force Structure

Kobor, Lauren

As of December 2011, the Department of Defense faces significant budgetary cuts. One way of meeting such cuts would be to eliminate one leg of the current nuclear triad -“ land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Such a cut would preserve billions of dollars in spending, but would also require a reassessment of U.S. nuclear strategy and policy goals. This paper argues that elimination of ICBMs is a feasible action that would preserve the nuclear force's flexibility with submarine- and bomber-based platforms. Additionally, such a move could refocus international efforts on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. However, the elimination of our perceived strongest technological capability could have a significant normative impact on the perception of U.S. military strength and capabilities. Domestic audiences, such as conservative elements or elder generations, would question the administration's ability to secure the U.S. against threats, and more aggressive nations may respond with shows of their own military missile capabilities. ICBMs serve more as a symbol of power and technology than as a practical weapon capable of being integrated into a feasible U.S. security strategy.


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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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February 10, 2014