The U.S. is woefully unprepared for any kind of nuclear attack with the expertise needed to survive such an attack atrophied since the end of the Cold War, a Pentagon task force has warned.
The threat of an all—out nuclear exchange between Russia and the US may be less than it was during the Cold War, but the decades—long efforts to avoid a possible Armageddon has had a downside, the advisory panel noted after a comprehensive review,
The study’s authors have urged the Defence Department’s leadership to take steps to enhance nuclear survivability, saying the conclusions of their study should serve as a “wake—up call” to the Pentagon.
“The task force believes that this state of affairs ... is dangerous and needs to be reversed,” said the joint report by Defence Science Board and the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee Task Force.
“Actions — both by others and of our own doing — are combining to create potentially tragic consequences on military operations involving the effects of nuclear weapons on the survivability of critical [military] systems,” notes the report, first spotted by InsideDefense.com.
“Many of the post—Cold War generation of decision—makers simply do not have this issue on their ‘radar scope,’ while others pay little or no attention to it because they fail to see is as a legitimate concern,” the report says.
The board concluded that there is an “alarming atrophy” in understanding of nuclear issues within the military. It stems from a perceived remoteness of an attack and the cost and complexity of radiation—hardening equipment and training troops for nuclear environments.
Even if the days of “massive arsenal—exchange scenarios like those of the Cold War” are over, a limited nuclear engagement could still put military communications systems at serious risk, according to the report.
Among the specific problems cited in the report are the lack of hardening of military equipment needed to ensure it would survive a nuclear blast and resulting electromagnetic radiation, and a decline in knowledge among military leaders on how to operate and respond to a nuclear attack.
Military satellites often have additional hardening requirements to withstand nuclear attack, but “even those are highly variable”, says the report. And commercial satellites that support military communications are “not hardened beyond expected natural operating environments”, it notes.
The task force has many specific recommendations — reintroduce nuclear survivability into war games, educate troops, evaluate survivability of existing hardware, amp up modelling and test capabilities, and train the next generation of experts.