In this essay, Dr. John Harvey asserts that the US NC3 system “must seek vastly improved senior leader conferencing capabilities to support decisions that go beyond what some of us call the Cold War’s “multiple choice test”—that is, which major attack option to execute. To support consultations among allies, partners and potentially adversaries, in addition to senior military and advisors in complex conflict scenarios involving, say, combined offense and defense, nuclear and conventional operations—that is, the “essay test”—will require global, secure, high-quality voice, video and data transmissions that are resilient in stressed nuclear environments and go well beyond what was required for the Cold War mission.”
By addressing the sustainment and modernization of the NC2 system, it identifies the key functions of the system and the specific system elements that enable those functions. It describes how the system that was developed and fielded during the Cold War, and designed to meet Cold War security needs, must change to address new thinking about how conventional conflict in the 21st century, and escalation to nuclear use, will evolve. A specific focus is the information and decision support needs of the President in responding to 21st century conflict scenarios and how those needs are much more varied and extensive than during the Cold War. In light of this discussion, two priorities are advanced for NC2 modernization:
Dr. John R. Harvey is a physicist with over 35 years of experience working nuclear weapons and national security issues, first at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, then at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Arms Control, and in senior positions in the Departments of Defense (twice) and Energy.
From 2009–2013, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs under then Undersecretary Ash Carter. He was Dr. Carter’s “go to” person for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, as well as for interactions with the Department of Energy on joint oversight of the US nuclear weapons stockpile. Dr. Harvey also provided oversight to DoD acquisition programs to sustain and modernize nuclear weapons delivery systems and systems for their command and control.
Since retiring from government service in 2013, he consults with the Defense Science Board, Institute for Defense Analysis, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Institute for Public Policy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Strategic Command’s Strategic Advisory Group Panel on Nuclear Weapons Command and Control.
Podcast: The Fourth Leg - The System Can't Be Perfect