Hillary isn’t the only candidate I’ve asked about de-alerting nuclear weapons recently. Here’s an exchange with Martin O’Malley on December 20 at the Hopkinton, NH, town hall.
Judy: I want to ask you about the nuclear weapons triad, and I assume that you know what it is. These are really frightening times, with a lot of increasing international tension. And for me the most terrifying leg of the nuclear triad is the missiles. The United States and Russia still have hundreds of missiles pointed at each other on hair-trigger alert. It’s a system that is very susceptible, the missiles especially, to false alerts, false alarms, accidents, and now cyber-attacks. And it’s terrifying to realize that we are still, after… so long after the Cold War still in significant danger of accidental nuclear war. And a lot of retired generals will say this. So, I want to ask you a really specific question. It’s that have you seen the plans, such as General Cartwright’s plan, for de-alerting the nuclear missiles, and would you support that plan?
O’Malley: No, I have not seen, I have not seen the plan.
Judy: Um… (Gives a folder to Gov. O’Malley and crowd laughs.) There’s also a report there on accidents with nuclear missiles
O’Malley (taking the folder): I have now seen the plan, and I’ll read it in the car. Look, I’m on a constant learning curve and I think all of us are in the midst of the Republican [inaudible]. So, here’s my take on it. I believe that … I have read some other pieces, been involved in conversations. There is a little-known entity called the Council of Governors created by an act of Congress whose job it is to meet regularly with the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security. And President Obama appointed me to be the Democratic co-chair of that. So I think we typically talk not about the nuclear triad but we do talk a lot about preparedness and we do talk about force and shape of force and maintenance and those things. I believe that we probably can, probably can save money even in the course of modernizing our nuclear deterrents. I think we can lead by example and restart the effort to reduce the numbers of these nuclear warheads that are still all over the earth.
I have visited North Com out there in Colorado and I have seen … Anybody remember, anybody here old enough to remember Dr. Strangelove, and the big board? I’ve seen the big board. [Laughter] So I’ve been there and I’ve seen … I’ve had some knowledge of these things. And the cyber threat which unfortunately we didn’t talk about last night. We talked more about the really goofy … you know, whatever … voter file hacking. I mean, just maddening. I mean, the same day in the newspaper there was a report about the cyber breach that happened in the federal government. And I think that we haven’t begun to fully understand what the potential threat might be to our nuclear arsenal side of things. So thank you for bringing that. And let me read up on what you’ve given me.
Judy: And there was, a lot of people think that there was a cyber-attack on the missile system last … within the last year and you can read about it. [I found out later I was wrong about when this happened. It occurred in 2010.]
O’Malley: And that’s in there as well?
Judy: I believe so. If not, I’ll get the information to you.
O’Malley: What was your name again?
Judy: My name is Judy Elliott. I’m from Canterbury.
O’Malley: Judy, good to see you again.
As far as I know, O’Malley hasn’t made a public statement yet on de-alerting.
Materials I gave to him:
- Joe Cirincione, “What Happens When Our Nuclear Arsenal Is Hacked?” 2015
- Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction, “De-Alerting and Stabilizing the World’s Nuclear Force Postures” 2015.
- Global Zero US Nuclear Policy Commission Report: “Modernizing US Nuclear Policy, Force Structure and Posture,” May 2012.
- Union of Concerned Scientists, “Frequently Asked Questions about Taking Nuclear Weapons Off Hair-Trigger Alert” 2015
- Union of Concerned Scientists, “Close Calls With Nuclear Weapons” 2015