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Nuclear Weapons: DOD Assessed the Need for Each Leg of the Strategic Triad and Considered Other Reductions to Nuclear Forces

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Technical Report

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U.S. Government Accountability Office Washington United States

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Since the 1960s, the United States has deployed nuclear weapons on three types of strategic delivery vehicles collectively known as the strategic triad. The triad comprises the sea-based leg submarine-launched ballistic missiles, ground-based leg intercontinental ballistic missiles, and airborne leg nuclear-capable heavy bombers. As a result of arms control agreements and strategic policies, the number of U.S. nuclear weapons and strategic delivery vehicles has been reduced substantially however, the strategic triad has remained intact. DOD and the Department of Energy are planning to invest significant resources to recapitalize and modernize the strategic triad in the coming decades. The departments projected in 2015 that the costs of maintaining U.S. nuclear forces for fiscal years 2016 through 2025 would total 319.8 billion, and DOD expects recapitalization and modernization efforts to extend into the 2030s. GAO was asked to review DODs analysis of the decision to retain all three legs of the strategic triad. This report describes the processes DOD used in supporting that decision. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed officials from DOD and the military services on the key reviews DOD carried out from 2009 to 2014 including the 2010 Nuclear Posture Reviewin analyzing its strategic force structure

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