Skip to comments.Ex-commander: Nukes on high alert are vulnerable to error
Posted on 04/30/2015 11:39:50 PM PDT by Olog-hai
A former commander of U.S. nuclear forces is leading a call for taking U.S. and Russian nuclear missiles off high alert, arguing that keeping them less ready for prompt launch would reduce the risk of miscalculation in a crisis.
It also could keep a possible cyberattack from starting a nuclear war, he said, although neither Washington nor Moscow appears interested in negotiating an agreement to end the practice of keeping nuclear missiles on high alert.
Retired Gen. James Cartwright said in an interview that de-alerting nuclear arsenals could foil cyber intruders by reducing the chance of firing a weapon in response to a false warning of attack. [ ]
The Obama administration has considered and rejected the idea before of taking nuclear missiles off high alert. There appears to be little near-term chance that Moscow would agree to pursue this or any other kind of nuclear arms control measure, given the deteriorating U.S.-Russian relations after Russia's intervention in eastern Ukraine.
(Excerpt) Read more at bigstory.ap.org ...
The one good thing to come out of the Cold War with the Soviets is our mutual agreement for our complete control over each other's nuke control.
I call BS on this article.
Well, of course.
"It also could keep a possible cyberattack from starting a nuclear war, he said, although neither Washington nor Moscow appears interested in negotiating an agreement to end the practice of keeping nuclear missiles on high alert."
Huh? Contradictory to the above.
"Retired Gen. James Cartwright said in an interview that de-alerting nuclear arsenals could foil cyber intruders by reducing the chance of firing a weapon in response to a false warning of attack."
Okay, not being a computer hacker type, I still wonder how the hackers could get into such a closed system and initiate nuclear war. Think about all the early warning terrestial and satellite systems. As I said above, it would take more than hacked messages. Even Obambi isn't that stupid nor are the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There are so many redundant procedures in place, the most brilliant computer hacker in the world could not over-ride those protocols. Russia has the same as does France, England, India. Nor so sure about China or Pakistan.
Thinking this guy is looking for a book deal.
The article says “in an interview”. My first question is “For what purpose and in what context was this interview conducted?” Who participated in the “interview?” What media outlet/reporter, etc. Where did it occur?
All we know is “interview” and nothing much else.
Yes, I’d be asking “bookdeal”, drumming up bidness for a consulting firm, hawking policy for Democrats? Could be anything.
Nukes not on high alert are subject to sneak attack.
I was given a tour of a launch control facility. Once the orders are given to launch, it takes two people to fire them, they must physically operate a switch, one for each officer. I also think I recall them saying there is a physical override, meaning they need permission from a sister launch facility to prevent two whacko officers starting a war.
Unless the cyber hackers have figured out a way to hack human minds with their computers, this sounds like utter crap. Some leftist stuff trying to shut down our defense preparedness.
This would increase response time from minutes to hours in which time much of our defenses could be destroyed. Instead of targeting each launch facility, they’d only have to target the base the officers are quartered at.
I served on an SSBN during the Cold War and the fact that we were on high alert all the time (with the added stress of hundreds of feet of cold ocean over our heads) kept us on our toes so we didn’t make mistakes.
Of course, our generation had an attention span that was was not measured in single digit seconds.
It’s all physically isolated from publicly accessible networks, and it’s not all computerized. Several sophisticated checks are required of human beings in different locations. The General has some other reason for trying to get the attention.
The two officers in the capsule turn their keys to initiate a launch "Vote." All 50 missiles in the squadron see that vote. Another capsule has to also "Vote" (turn their keys) and the missiles then process those two votes as a valid launch command and will then launch. Once the second vote is received nothing can stop the missiles from launching. The missiles will not launch with only one capsule turning keys.
I am not quite sure as to what the former commander means by “High Alert.” Either the missiles are turned on and ready to launch or else it would takes several days to bring up a Wing of 150 missiles to Alert status.
The ICBM force was designed to be ready to launch at a moments notice and there are really no intermediate physical stages of alert status for them to have. They are either ready to launch or they take a lot of time to bring them up.
That was the protocol in the movie, "Crimson Tide". A Trident got verified coded orders to launch against a rogue Russian General. Gene Hackman and Denzal Washington came to blows when they received another partial message (due to comms failure).
"I also think I recall them saying there is a physical override, meaning they need permission from a sister launch facility to prevent two whacko officers starting a war."
What would be a "sister launch facility" for a Trident?
"Unless the cyber hackers have figured out a way to hack human minds with their computers, this sounds like utter crap. Some leftist stuff trying to shut down our defense preparedness."
Agreed. Ours and others' launch protocols are so advanced and need human inter-action, I don't get what this guy is trying to say. His point may be about our Tridents. Depending on depth, they can't get voice comms directly from the President and rely on encrypted codes that are locked in a safe and takes the CO and EO and Weapons Officer to verify the validity of the message. But then, it's been some 20 years since I was Navy.
Bottom line: Other than the Islamist maniacs who hit and run, I sleep well at night knowing our submariners are out there in their Tridents. I believe they are our true first and last nuclear defense. Bombers can be blown out of the sky. ICBM silos have definite coordinates that all know about...if we even have any more.
Bless our submariners and hope their mission isn't compromised by the PC inclusion of females on board.
“Retired Gen. James Cartwright said in an interview that de-alerting nuclear arsenals could foil cyber intruders by reducing the chance of firing a weapon in response to a false warning of attack. [ ]
Simple Aviation Navy here, but what does a state of readiness (whatever color or alert) has to do with a cyber intruder doing his thing for a false warning? I really am code challenged...can anyone explain this to me? And what would be “de-alerting” and how what that curtail said cyber hacker? Way over my pay grade.
Thank you and your fellow submariners for letting me sleep at night through the "Cold War" while I did my duty on various surface ships. However, I don't believe your successors are any less well trained. You know that the Navy will not let less than highly qualified personnel serve on a submarine.
While they not be in the "suck" as ground grunts call it, you have always been the "Silent Service" and deal with other hardships most people can't imagine. I still can't imagine living on a narrow tin can. I was happy to be our on the flight deck with room and fresh air. Although, around the clock flight ops got old.
Let us see.
A USMC General - good on him with a four year tour as Vice Chairman of the AJCS. Again, good on him.
But, how much hands on experience does he have with SIOP nuclear weapons and weapons systems?
According to him we should have had at least one accidental launch from the triad while we had numerous nuclear weapons on high alert during the Cold War (1961 - 1995). Does anyone remember such an incident/
Sorry, but DOD has learned the hard way, again, that nuclear weapons aren’t the same as conventional weapons and expertise in one doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other.
We can trust the Russians to do the same, I am sure they would NEVER take advantage of us by cheating on some sort of agreement, especially if it was legally binding... (s)
>>However, I don’t believe your successors are any less well trained. You know that the Navy will not let less than highly qualified personnel serve on a submarine.
Sadly, I know people who now do the job that I did 30 years ago. They aren’t as well trained as we were then. I’ve interviewed them for jobs and they are better than most Millennials but their training (or retention of knowledge) is pitiful compared to a Nuc of the Cold War. But they are in better shape and understand the politics of navigating the PC world much better than we were.
Thanks for the clarification. I always found my visits down there interesting as the folks in the capsule were always quite friendly. I was one of the CES guys doing water maintenance in the equipment building next door as well as the MAF infrastructure upstairs.
What Wing? I spent six years as an enlisted BMAT on Titan II Combat Crew at the 381st in Kansas and then four years on Crew as both a Deputy then Crew Commander in the Deuce system at Grand Forks. Maybe we met if you were at “The Forks.”
Having no recent knowledge of submariner training other than what I read, I would disagree with you. The reason being is that our subs are much more technically advanced than in your day. Some Navy schools go on for months and months because of the current systems aboard.
Think how advanced our Aegis ships are in their CIC's and the training it takes to work in them, not to mention our missle gunner mates nowadays. They rule the seas.
Remember, there is always the exceptions to the rule. I still have faith in our highly trained Navy; not so much with our Naval commanders.
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