On Tuesday, January 30, President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address since assuming office just over one year ago. While he outlined his plans and policies, reaffirmed the position of his administration on issues such as healthcare, and promised to rebuild American energy using, in his own words, “beautiful, clean coal,” there were interesting remarks on nuclear weapons. The Commander in Chief stated that his administration plans to upgrade and modernize the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal, citing the need for a fleet of weapons, “so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression.” However, the question must be asked: what does modernization of nuclear weapons mean regarding the administration’s plan? Additionally, what more could be done to the thousands of active warheads that would make them more of a deterrent against preemptive aggression?
If the Trump Administration plans to upgrade warheads by checking the infrastructure and replace weapons if necessary, this indeed is an essential plan. Nukes utilize nuclear fission in enriched uranium to create cataclysmic explosions. Because uranium is radioactive, it decays over time and although it retains its radioactivity for thousands of years, the time when it is useful in a warhead is much shorter, and upgrades to the warheads, at least in that aspect, are essential for functionality if they are ever employed and subsequently deployed. However, beyond this there are no upgrades required to the nuclear arsenal or the infrastructure, and any implemented are unbelievably dangerous and could prove devastating in the future.
The mechanisms that launch nuclear weapons are antiquated Cold War technology that predate the modern internet and are painfully analog when compared to modern weapons technology. Certainly with the astronomical budget of the U.S. Military these systems could be modernized. However, the technology has remained exactly the same. This is no accident. These silos and submarines are kept analog and off the grid to ensure that only an order from the President can deploy a nuclear weapon. Inside a missile silo, after the codes are entered, there are two keys that must be turned simultaneously in order for the launch sequence to begin. Each operator has a key, and they must jointly partake in this action. If these systems were modernized, this could potentially give them a wired connection, or possibly an internet connection. This would compromise the security of these devastating weapons, and make them susceptible to hacking by a malicious group or terrorists, and in the future, when the technology arrives, artificial intelligence.
While the military is beyond knowledgeable of these dangers, they are subject to the orders of the Commander in Chief. It is imperative that the Trump Administration has comprehensive knowledge on the nuclear arsenal; the integrity of the security measures in place are a matter of global safety. There are thousands of nuclear weapons active right now, waiting patiently, as the world prays they may never be used. It would only take a fraction of the weapons at the disposal of the United States to bring an end to global civilization as we know it; as long as these devices are operational, there is nothing more we need do to our nuclear weapons arsenal and infrastructure