U.S. Nuclear Command and Control for the 21st Century
In this essay, Dr. John Harvey asserts that the US NC3 system “must seek vastly improved senior leader conferencing capabilities to support decisions that go beyond what some of us call the Cold War’s “multiple choice test”—that is, which major attack option to execute. To support consultations among allies, partners and potentially adversaries, in addition to senior military and advisors in complex conflict scenarios involving, say, combined offense and defense, nuclear and conventional operations—that is, the “essay test”—will require global, secure, high-quality voice, video and data transmissions that are resilient in stressed nuclear environments and go well beyond what was required for the Cold War mission.”
By addressing the sustainment and modernization of the NC2 system, it identifies the key functions of the system and the specific system elements that enable those functions. It describes how the system that was developed and fielded during the Cold War, and designed to meet Cold War security needs, must change to address new thinking about how conventional conflict in the 21st century, and escalation to nuclear use, will evolve. A specific focus is the information and decision support needs of the President in responding to 21st-century conflict scenarios and how those needs are much more varied and extensive than during the Cold War. In light of this discussion, two priorities are advanced for NC2 modernization:
Fix the legacy NC2 system, including the so-called “thin line” architecture, to address the nuclear scenarios we focused on during the Cold War and which have not yet gone away.
Develop an NC2 concept and associated architecture to address “modern” nuclear conflict, and generate a plan to field it over the next 10-15 years. This includes a robust and provocative discussion of the cyber elements inherent to such an architecture – food for much further discussion.
This report is accompanied by a Fourth Leg podcast: The System Can’t Be Perfect.download pdf