December 16, 2015

CNAS Press Note: The Nuclear Triad and the Republican Debate

By Elbridge Colby

Washington, December 16 – Following the discussion of the nuclear triad during last night’s Republican debate, CNAS Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow Elbridge Colby has written a new Press Note, “The Nuclear Triad and the Republican Debate.”

The full press note is below:

During last night’s Republican debate, candidates were asked for their views on the future of the U.S. nuclear triad. This is encouraging because America’s nuclear deterrent forms in many respects the cornerstone of the nation’s defense, and national security posture more broadly. The triad is composed of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and missiles and bombs launched or dropped from bombers. The nuclear deterrent also includes a nuclear command and control system that relies on both earth- and space-based assets, a network of national laboratories and nuclear weapons complexes, and tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel.

The nuclear deterrent is a particularly timely issue because of growing geopolitical tensions with nuclear-armed adversaries like Russia and China, a more dangerous and competitive military-technological environment, and the need for the United States to recapitalize the deterrent, most of which is at least as old as the Reagan ministration and in some cases as the Eisenhower administration. A vigorous public debate is key to updating America’s nuclear deterrent to meet 21st-century challenges. Future presidential debates should therefore continue to provide candidates with the opportunity to weigh in on this matter of utmost importance to U.S. national security.

Colby is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at or 202-457-9409.


  • Elbridge Colby