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How the Top 5 Strange Myths About America's Nuclear Triad Are Wrong

Robert Gard, Philip Coyle, Greg Terryn, John Isaacs

Key point: There are a lot of assumptions out there about nuclear weapons and these need to be corrected to prevent voters from making poor policy choices.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced last week that it has decided to move its famed “Doomsday Clock” three minutes closer to midnight or, in effect, closer to the “end of humanity.” While this year, the Bulletin focused on the threat from climate change, a spokesperson added that “a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.”

Indeed, nuclear weapons still play a limited, yet very expensive, role in our national security. The Congressional Budget Office announced last week that the United States will spend about $350 billion over the next decade to upgrade and maintain its arsenal. But at the same time, there are also misconceptions about the purpose, status and effectiveness of our arsenal. Let’s disarm some of those myths:

1. Nuclear weapons are the highest priority U.S. military forces:

Out-going Secretary Hagel perpetuated this myth during his press conference announcing the results of a recent nuclear review: “Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. national security, and it's DOD's highest priority mission. No other capability we have is more important.” While nuclear deterrence has been a vestige of U.S defense policy since World War II, it clearly does not represent today’s highest priority for the DOD in terms of attention, planning or funding.

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