Questioning Unitary Command: Nuclear Launch Authority and the N-Person Problem
Philip Reiner and Peter Hayes with Dr. Alex Wellerstein
In this segment, Dr. Alex Wellerstein sketches a framework for thinking about how concentrated nuclear use authority should be at the top. While he discusses specific U.S. proposals for reform in response to recent domestic debates, the scope of his analysis is uniquely global, and includes a comparative analysis of the approach of all nine nuclear weapons states. Global NC3 systems are historically constituted and contextualized, the result of considerable debate and experimentation over time within nuclear states. This fact points to their necessary adaptability, and to the opportunity for novel approaches going forward. Using a global perspective, the framework presented by Dr. Wellerstein within this segment could provide inspiration for an alternative, perhaps less risky nuclear command and control arrangements.
This podcast is accompanied by Dr. Alex Wellerstein’s Paper “NC3 Decision Making: Individual Versus Group Process.”
The Fourth Leg is a series of podcasts focused on one of the most complex systems in the world today – nuclear command and control – and its increasingly complicated future. Within this series we go straight to the experts, across multiple sectors, to discuss the modernization of nuclear command and control systems.
Along with colleagues from the Nautilus Institute and the Preventive Defense Project, IST recently hosted over 50 international experts at Stanford University to anticipate technical challenges that will arise from the modernization of complex nuclear command and control systems. We aim to spotlight some of the vulnerabilities within a modernized NC3 system while furthering the conversation with this series.
Keep an eye on IST, as we will begin additional podcast series in the coming months focused on how to fix the internet, AI and global stability, and other critical tech and security issues- for now, we have so much more to talk about, so let’s get started.