When it comes to nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia have not yet shaken the technological and strategic legacy of the Cold War. Across the Great Plains and the Russian steppe, hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) wait ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Once launched, they cannot be recalled.

At the same time, it’s clear nuclear-armed states are long overdue for a serious reconsideration of their spending priorities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the profound vulnerabilities of current approaches to security. In the U.S., nearly a century spent prioritizing endless competition for military supremacy over the basic building blocks of a dignified life for its citizens — high-quality healthcare, education, housing, and basic infrastructure designed to mitigate and withstand the worsening effects of a changing climate — has yielded a profound insecurity, a society constantly on the brink of self-destruction. 

A growing chorus of experts, advocates and lawmakers is calling for the elimination of the dangerous, destabilizing ICBM force. Global Zero’s 2018 Alternative Nuclear Posture Review outlined a comprehensive vision for a more stable, credible U.S. nuclear strategy with a force of submarine-based weapons with bombers in reserve, phasing out the vulnerable, unnecessary ICBM force without needless investment in a replacement. 

[ICBMs] are a civilization-ending accident waiting to happen. It defies reason to maintain the current missiles in this risky configuration, and it is totally misguided to replace these missiles in the same old vulnerable silos. Our [ICBMs] should be taken off hair-trigger, phased out and not replaced.

Dr. Bruce G. Blair and Dr. Frank von Hippel

We’re calling for the cancellation of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, which would commit nearly $300 billion to a new ICBM force the United States simply doesn’t need.

We’re doing what we do best: providing detailed, actionable plans for navigating the policy shifts that need to happen to build a world without nuclear weapons. Led by Research Associate Emma Claire Foley, we’re developing proposals for redirecting GBSD funding to address actual urgent policy priorities while sustaining the communities that live and work in the shadow of the U.S. ICBM force.

 

Resources

Biden Goes ‘Full Steam Ahead’ on Trump’s Nuclear Expansion Despite Campaign Rhetoric, Politico, June 2021

A Call to Rethink Priorities, May 2020

Who Needs ICBMs?, Defense One, Aug 2019

Utah and the Nation Would Be Safer Without the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, Deseret News, September 2019

The End of Nuclear Warfighting: Moving to a Deterrence-Only Posture, Alternative Nuclear Posture Review, Sept 2018

Global Zero U.S. Nuclear Policy Commission Report, May 2012