Leadership: July 15, 2003


The Department of Defense is spending several hundred million dollars to upgrade the computer and communications systems used to control the use of nuclear weapons. Although the Cold War, and the threat of a massive Soviet nuclear attack are gone, the Department of Defense is concerned about how well current nuclear weapon control systems would function if someone did toss a few nukes our way. Moreover, the "nuclear threat" has been expanded to include cyberwar and large scale terrorist attacks (with, say, dirty bombs, or real nukes). When the upgrade project is completed in 2007, civilian and military commanders will have special laptop computers and cell phones for controlling the use of nuclear weapons. The new systems are designed to work faster and be more reliable if the nation is under major attack. The reliability will be assisted  by launching several special communications satellites by 2006 (at a cost of nearly $100 million each). There will be control terminals for the system in 31 states and several foreign countries. There will also be terminals on some warships and aircraft. In addition there will be 69 portable terminals (laptop like devices) that can be set up anywhere and use the special satellites, or combinations of landlines, to keep the president and military commanders in touch with America's nuclear weapons. The new system is expected to be fully functional by 2010. At that point, those who operate or control nuclear weapons will be in touch via a secure communications system on Windows like software. The system will not be connected to the Internet or use Microsoft software.


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