Young and Old: The Future of the Nuclear Enterprise
By: Sarah Minot
On November 14, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released the findings of the nuclear enterprise review and announced his intention to invest in and revitalize the aging nuclear force. The findings were a result of both internal and external reviews of the nuclear enterprise after a number of troubling incidents. Notably, the internal review found a “consistent lack of investment” in and “systematic problems” with U.S. nuclear forces, including a culture of over-inspection and micro-management and questions at lower levels about the nation’s commitment to the nuclear mission.
Many of the review’s findings do not come as a surprise. Modernization has been a significant topic of discussion in the nuclear weapons policy community for years, and the U.S. military’s dedication to the nuclear mission and lack of cohesion has been called into question in the past. Additionally, reviews of the nuclear enterprise have been conducted before and have reached similar conclusions.
How can the issues identified in the most recent nuclear enterprise review be resolved? One of the most important steps in Secretary Hagel’s announcement is an additional $7.5 million investment over the next five years to revamp U.S. nuclear forces. This investment is critically important to correct shortcomings in the aging nuclear force in line with the U.S. policy to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal. Despite this commitment, monetary solutions alone will not resolve the issues plaguing the nuclear enterprise.
The United States must commit to training and employing the next generation of nuclear policy experts and technical personnel if it is to address the systemic challenges in the nuclear enterprise. In an effort to foster next generation development, the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at CSIS is holding its annual winter conference on December 9–10. Participants will engage in a comprehensive discussion about how the next generation can rethink nuclear policy and explore possible solutions to these systemic problems.