When and Why Cede Nuclear Authority
Philip Reiner and Peter Hayes with Dr. Vipin Narang
The brain of a state’s nuclear force structure is its command and control architecture and systems (NC3). Much of the proliferation and strategy literature focuses on the hardware of nuclear weapons—the actual production of warheads and delivery systems, ranges, accuracy, basing modes, payloads, MIRVs, missile defenses, and so on. But the software—the NC3 architecture that is charged with managing command, control, and communication under potentially extreme circumstances—is often overlooked or simply assumed or inferred, since much of it is unobservable because states (thankfully) rarely emerge from their peacetime postures. In this segment, Dr. Vipin Narang challenges the delegative/assertive binary, arguing that, while conceptually important, it has hamstrung our thinking of regional powers’ NC3 by forcing them into one bin or another when it is in fact a time-dependent spectrum: all states delegate—that is, cede the ability to use nuclear weapons, irrespective of the authority to do so—at some point. Dr. Narang concludes that: “states may not only shift from assertive to delegative postures as a crisis or conflict evolves, but may also have variable NC3 postures for different legs of its force.”
This podcast is accompanied by Dr. Vipin Narang paper “A New Framework for Thinking about Regional NC3.”
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.