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Pentagon considers changing nuclear retaliation rules

The Pentagon is considering recommending a change in policy regarding the use of nuclear weapons that could potential...

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 11:15 PM
Updated: Jan 18, 2018 11:15 PM

The Pentagon is considering recommending a change in policy regarding the use of nuclear weapons that could potentially open the door to a US nuclear response to a massive cyberattack, according to a defense official familiar with a draft of the Trump administration's Nuclear Posture Review who cautions it is not final.

Previously, a nuclear response has not been on the table for responding to most non-nuclear threats against the US.

This change could potentially allow for a nuclear response to a cyberattack on US infrastructure

Current US policy requires a lawful order by any President to use nuclear weapons

But the language in this particular draft of the review could potentially allow for a nuclear response to a cyberattack on US infrastructure, the official noted.

While cyberattacks on the US are downplayed in the report, the official said, the implication is that there could be a US nuclear response if there was a devastating cyberattack on US infrastructure such as power grids, although that specific scenario is not mentioned.

Current US policy requires a lawful order by the President to use nuclear weapons.

A lawful order is generally understood by the US military to mean any counterattack would have to be proportional to the threat in terms of damage and casualties of that attack against the US.

The story was first reported by The New York Times.

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis have not yet signed off on a final version of what will be the first comprehensive review of US nuclear forces in nearly eight years.

The review, which would allow Trump to put his mark on the nuclear inventory for decades to come, could lead to more than $1 trillion in spending over nearly 30 years, according to an October 2017 report from the Congressional Budget Office.

There have been three such reviews since the end of the Cold War, the most recent in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

Several US Defense officials have told CNN that the final draft -- expected to be unveiled just after Trump's State of the Union address on January 30 -- will likely focus on deterrence and reflect the greater threat from North Korea, which has stepped up its testing of missiles and nuclear devices over the last year, as well as an increased focus by Russia on its nuclear inventory.

The review is looking at current needs and capabilities across the US nuclear enterprise, including nuclear laboratories, stockpiles and manufacturing facilities. It is also studying future needs for modernizing aging nuclear weapons, including missiles, submarines and bomber aircraft.

The Pentagon's position is that without increased spending the government will be unable to produce and maintain a stockpile for land, sea, and air-launched nuclear weapons. Operations, interim upgrades and full modernization could cost $1.2 trillion, according the Congressional Budget Office report. The report estimates the fiscal needs could include:

  • $313 billion for a new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine that can fire nuclear missiles from beneath the ocean's surface.

  • $149 billion for a new silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile and upgraded launch facilities.

  • $266 billion for the new B-21 stealth bomber aircraft.

  • Additional funding for weapons laboratories and command-and-control facilities.

The review could also recommend efficiencies and changes aimed at saving money, officials said.

Defense officials have told CNN that Trump is not expected to call for increases or modernization of the nuclear arsenal that would take the US beyond current arms control agreements.

However, experts say things to watch for in the review include possible recommendations to deploy small nuclear bombs abroad closer to anticipated conflict, or to develop more lower-yield nuclear weapons.

Experts, however, have worried that these kinds of developments could make the decision by a US president to use nuclear weapons easier.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312926

Reported Deaths: 7226
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21474257
Hinds20271414
Harrison17796309
Rankin13561278
Jackson13404246
Madison10062217
Lee9961173
Jones8364163
Forrest7644152
Lauderdale7178240
Lowndes6366144
Lamar621286
Lafayette6168118
Washington5322133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha461198
Panola4556105
Pearl River4494145
Marshall4396103
Warren4376121
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4094133
Union408876
Neshoba4024176
Lincoln3947110
Hancock377086
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332384
Pike3294105
Scott315273
Alcorn311568
Yazoo310669
Itawamba299377
Copiah296065
Simpson294488
Coahoma294279
Tippah287668
Prentiss279360
Marion268780
Adams266082
Leake265573
Wayne262341
Grenada260186
Covington256381
George246748
Newton245961
Winston226881
Tishomingo225567
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone181833
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun169832
Yalobusha163336
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125838
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104726
Claiborne102230
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95328
Franklin83423
Quitman80016
Choctaw76018
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530011

Reported Deaths: 10946
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763591519
Mobile40875804
Madison34676503
Tuscaloosa25717451
Montgomery24308585
Shelby23389248
Baldwin21093307
Lee15844169
Calhoun14481313
Morgan14281279
Etowah13813353
Marshall12203222
Houston10553280
Elmore10036205
Limestone9952150
Cullman9647193
St. Clair9634239
Lauderdale9413241
DeKalb8821185
Talladega8210175
Walker7222277
Autauga6914108
Jackson6803111
Blount6645136
Colbert6291134
Coffee5503118
Dale4826111
Russell440038
Chilton4263111
Franklin425482
Covington4120117
Tallapoosa4006152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3544151
Clarke350861
Marion3111100
Pike310177
Lawrence299898
Winston273772
Bibb260463
Marengo249164
Geneva248777
Pickens233760
Barbour230757
Hale222577
Butler215869
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184345
Randolph179941
Monroe177040
Washington167039
Macon158650
Clay155956
Crenshaw151957
Cleburne148741
Lamar141834
Lowndes138553
Wilcox127029
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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