I-didn’t-know-that Dep’t: Launch on Warning

The U.S. and Russia are still in “launch-on-warning” mode, and Russian’s warning systems have been degrading over time.

UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations is having a two-day all-star conference on the emerging challenges of nuclear weapons, organized by Wesley Clark. I don’t know nearly enough about international relations to get invited as a scholar, but UCLA’s media folks decided to invite me as a blogger. (!)

William Perry, Defense Secretary under Clinton and a certified Defense Intellectual Heavyweight, gave a very good, thoughtful opening talk.

Here’s the most interesting fact I learned: both the U.S. and Russia still have their thousands of nuclear warheads on “launch-on-warning” status, which means that a computer malfunction on either end could put us into Fail-Safe territory, with top officials having minutes in which to decide whether to respond to an apparent attack or risk losing their capacity to counter-attack. And Russia’s warning systems have been degrading ever since the Soviet system fell.

There! Doesn’t that make you feel secure?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com