The Instigator
Pro (for)
28 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The USFG should eliminate its nuclear-armed ICBM force

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 4/8/2016 Category: Society
Updated: 6 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 552 times Debate No: 89373
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (4)




Resolved: The United States federal government should eliminate its nuclear-armed Intercontinental Ballistic Missile force.

This is a "policy" topic, meaning the Pro side offers a plan, and Con must negate the plan. If Pro wins that the plan should be passed, then the resolution is affirmed.

Opt-in standards for judging apply []

First round acceptance only. BOP is shared.


I accept.

I will be against the motion "The USFG should eliminate its nuclear-armed ICBM force".

I am looking forward for a good debate.
Debate Round No. 1


== Definitions ==

Eliminate = "completely remove or get rid of (something)." (Google's dictionary)

== Plan ==

The debate requires me to hold an advocacy position, i.e. a plan. So here is the plan text. The plan says that the United States federal government (i.e. the legislature and the executive) should pass legislation that requires the elimination of the nuclear-armed ICBM force of the U.S. The US currently has an arsenal of 4,760 nuclear warheads. [1] Currently, it operates Minuteman ICBMs from underground silos, Trident SLBMs carried by Ohio-class submarines, and multiple nuclear aircraft bombers. [2] I propose the elimination of those Minuteman ICBMs.

Contention 1: The ICBM force runs on outdated technology and has experienced severe security lapses

Subpoint A: Harms

The first argument in this debate is the severe lack of security. There have been *multiple* close calls that have almost lead to disaster. Security lapses are increasingly common. There has also been a lot of misbehavior among officials responsible for the nuclear ICBM force. In one case, two crew members who possessed nuclear launch keys left silo blast doors- meant to prevent terrorists from entering- open while an officer was asleep. [3] Major Air Force nuclear units have failed security inspections. [4] Nine Air Force commanders lost their jobs because of systemic cheating on security tests. [5] Nuclear ICBMs are stored in silos in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. The security in all these places is poor. Take the example of Wyoming, where -- in the underground control center -- there is an enormous outer door designed to protect the corridor leading to the ICBM capsule. The door has a broken part so it can't close, and is propped open with a crowbar and marked with a "Danger" tag. [6] The technology used in Wyoming for launching the nuclear weapons is outdated as well. Journalist Lesley Stahl explains, "[T]he equipment is ancient. One of the computers that would receive a launch order from the President . . . uses floppy disks; the really old, big ones." [6] North Dakota isn't any better -- many times, the officers aren't well-trained, and 17 of them were relieved of duty on failing security inspections. [4]

There has been severe misbehavior and criminal activity within the force. A certain launch officer was involved with a *drug ring.* Jeffrey Lewis lists out some examples of such misdemeanors: "A partial list of embarrassing stories includes: the so-called 'munitions transfer incident' in which six nuclear weapons were mistakenly flown across the country; an accidental shipment of Minuteman III nosecones to Taiwan; the removal of the commander of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force for an epic bender involving a Beatles cover band at a Mexican restaurant in Moscow; the reprimand of the number two official at U.S. Strategic Command who is the subject of a criminal probe involving gambling with fake casino chips; the court-marshal of a launch officer involved with a drug ring -- as well as a plethora of other embarrassments ranging from widespread cheating on examinations, poor marks in unit assessments, and violations of security procedures including launch officers sleeping with the door to the command capsule propped." [7] John Oliver concludes, in his brilliant Last Week Tonight piece on nuclear weapons: "Within the last 12 months we were in a situation where in the event of us launching a nuclear strike, the president's command would theoretically have gone through a man gambling with fake poker chips, who would've then tried to call a drunk guy wrestling with a Russian George Harrison, who would've then needed to send someone with a bag full of burritos to wake up an officer and tell him to go grab an LP-sized floppy disk and begin the solemn process of ending the world as we know it." [8]

The impact is nuclear terrorism. Out of the three wheels of the US nuclear triad, ICBMs are land based, so they can be targeted easily by terrorists. The security lapses outlined above -- e.g. leaving doors designed to protect from terrorists open -- allow easy nuclear terrorism. Criminal infiltration of the ICBM program has *already* happened (see the officials who ran drug gangs). Terrorists have the means, motives and opportunity to orchestrate a nuclear terrorist attack. And this isn't some extremely hypothetical scenario; there's *probability* to it as well -- it doesn't rely on a magnitude-based impact analysis. Information reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency shows "a persistent problem with the illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials, thefts, losses and other unauthorized activities." [9]

Subpoint B: Inherency

The problem is inherent to the status quo -- the plan is the best, and possibly the only, way to solve it. Due to the past actions of the Air Force, it's clear that it doesn't care much about the ICBM force, if at all. It views the program as unnecessary to national security. [7] So it isn't going to become "more responsible" fast -- and nor are the officials. The plan is the best solution to nuclear terrorism.

Contention 2: Maintaining the nuclear triad is incredibly expensive and may cause budget crisis

The nuclear triad as a whole needs modernization. It is incredibly outdated. Almost everyone agrees -- from Senator Marco Rubio to President Obama -- that the nuclear triad needs to be modernized, and there are multiple variant plans to accomplish the same. [10] The problem is the *immense* cost that modernization plans carry with them. Experts agree that the government is severely underestimating these costs, and the costs of modernization could go up to $1 trillion. [11] Attempts to modernize the nuclear program will trigger fast, emergency budget cuts and virtually push the country into "budget crisis." The budget crisis will cause the *sudden* need to, chaotically, eliminate the nuclear ICBM wheel anyway (which is the one that should, and will, be the first to go, as shall be outlined in the third contention).

There are a few impacts to this contention. First, the ICBMs will go *anyway,* so there's no actual reason to keep them, once the level of budget crisis is realized. Second, if ICBMs are eliminated hastily, there will be a severe loss in nuclear deterrence rather than slow replacement and focus on conventional warfare. The budget crisis might well persuade complete disarmament, which might actually persuade hostile nations to go all the way to a nuclear war. On fact, Pifer, et al. argue that the loss of a guarantee in nuclear security might result in Turkey becoming a nuclear state, alongside fears from Russia. [12]

Contention 3: The ICBM wheel of the triad is the best one to eliminate

My second contention has already established that the triad will cause a nuclear budget crisis. So we have to agree that *something* has to be eliminated. I argue that the best one to eliminate is the ICBM wheel. ICBMs bring with them risk of miscalculation, failure to act as a suitable deterrent, and they are easily detectable by satellite. They're pretty ineffective as a part of the nuclear triad. [13] The only suitable purpose for nuclear weapons is deterrence of nuclear attacks, because the US isn't going to launch first strikes, and has not even *threatened* to do so. ICBMs don't act as a significant deterrent. SLBMs -- submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- provide sufficient second strike capability to deter. [14] The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation explains, "Nuclear-armed submarines remain the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. While further reductions might entail reductions to all three legs of the triad or discussions about eliminating one leg, a safe and secure SLBM force seems destined to remain the centerpiece of deterrence -- especially in the United States -- for years to come." [14]

As established above, ICBM launching can lead to severe miscalculations. [13] These can prevent de-escalation significantly. Launching an ICBM requires a decision of whether to launch or not to launch, because they cannot be recalled at all, so in a war-scenario, using ICBMs more than the others increases the risk of de-escalation. The CBO explains, "Bombers provide the most flexibility, because the tempo of their operations can be ramped up or down, signaling intent to an adversary." [15] The impact is nuclear war: less de-escalation means greater chance of nuclear war, which is a *huge* impact and can lead to millions of deaths.

To summarize, I've proven: (1) the ICBM force has poor security and has faced severe security lapses that could lead to nuclear terrorism, (2) the budget crisis means some leg of the triad has to be cut, and (3) cutting anything except ICBMs significantly would reduce chances of de-escalation, increase security threats and reduce overall deterrent capability.

For these reasons, Vote Pro in today's debate.

[8] See Last Week Tonight clip, starting at 7:56


nikhilworld123 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Forfeit, Vote Pro.

Here are the arguments I extend --

1. The ICBM force runs on outdated technology and has severe security lapses, that open the gates to nuclear terrorism.

2. The triad budget is very high. It's seriously outdated and needs renovation, and the renovation would cost up to $1 trillion per estimates of multiple esteemed researchers. This will result in a nuclear budget crisis that will end up in the elimination of the ICBM force anyway, and fast cuts to the nuclear deterrent that put the US in threat of nuclear war.

3. Since #2 has established that something in the triad must go, the ICBM force is the best one to be eliminated. The Air Force has lost faith in the ICBM force and isn't going to significantly maintain it. The SLBM's and bomber force are required for nuclear de-escalation in a situation of pending nuclear war, and if an ICBM is launched, it cannot be recalled. The latter two are critical to save millions of lives, while ICBM's aren't a sufficient deterrent and will end up risking lives.

Therefore, vote Pro.


One should not get confused between weapons and weapon launching platforms. If a nation has decided to strategically use Nuclear weapons for its defence, then it will be imperative for it to construct and maintain appropriate launching platforms.

For a country like the USA, which was in the forefront of developing Nuclear weapons, it would be immature for it do away with its ICBMs when its adversaries still hold them. The triad for launching Nuclear weapons, ICBMs, SLBMs and Missile launchers from the air, are absolutely necessary to maintain a credible defence. Removing one of the legs in this triad will weaken them considerably. It does not make sense for them to weaken themselves in an increasingly unstable world.

Coming to the point of vulnerabilities in the security of ICBMs. If the ICBMs have been poorly secured and are at the threat of being captured by unscrupulous elements, such threats would be applicable for any such weapon platform. How could SLBMs be more secure than ICBMs? Imagine a submarine being hijacked by pirates! It is a realistic threat, although the probability of such an occurrence is minimum.

One should not forget that ICBMs are probably the easiest to operate. They could be used to launch missiles from roads, on back of trucks, rail etc. It is a simple, yet efficient and proven defence.

In summary,

  • It would not be sensible for the US to unwind its ICBM program till there is a consensus on reduction by all concerned.

  • The security concerns to ICBMs mentioned in the argument are there for every other strategic weapon platform.

  • The simplicity of ICBM defence would be difficult to replicate with other options.

Debate Round No. 3


== Rebuttal ==

(1) Con's sole contention is that removing one of the wheels of the triad would weaken the triad considerably. This is objectively false, as demonstrated under my C3. The only purposes of the triad are deterrence and second-strike capability, for both of which the ICBM's aren't required. My source 14 clearly establishes that SLBM's act as a much stronger deterrent and have greater second strike capability. So ICBM's are unnecessary. This forms the whole of Con's offense (the rest being largely defensive), so vote them down right there. Con also says they are the easiest to operate, but *turn* that -- the "easy operation" causes very low chances of de-escalation, so provide less chance of preventing nuclear war if such a scenario arises. Extend contention 3 which fully refutes Con's case.

(2) The other arms of the triad don't have nearly as many security threats as the ICBM force. The problem of security lacks inherency insofar as SLBM's and bombers are concerned, because the military has faith in them. Extend subpoint B of contention 1: the problem is *inherent* to ICBM's as the Air Force doesn't care much about them to revamp security features. Con doesn't demonstrate that the problem exists with SLBM's and strategic bombers as well, and has no evidence. Extend all the warrants regarding ICBM security and nuclear terrorism. Con doesn't prove that "a submarine being hijacked by a pirate" is sufficient to warrant a significant security threat to SLBM's and doesn't show that the security is so bad.

(3) Con drops the budget crisis which will result from the ICBM force and will result in the eventual discontinuation of the ICBM force *anyway.* But such a sudden discontinuation will reduce nuclear deterrence: it has to be slow and prepared. So the discontinuation process should begin before the onset of budget crisis which is inevitable. This renders all of Con's offense irrelevant since the budget crisis will force such changes occurring anyway. Don't allow Con to refute this point now because debate convention dictates that new arguments in the final round should be rejected.

== Underview ==

Resolution: "The USFG should eliminate its nuclear-armed ICBM force"

My burden, as Pro, is to affirm the resolution by demonstrating that such an elimination would pose a net benefit to the US. Con's burden is to show that keeping the ICBM force poses a greater net benefit and the plan poses a net harm. I have fulfilled my burden, while Con has failed to fulfill his burden.

I argued three contentions: (1) the ICBM force has poor security and is vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, (2) there are very high costs (up to $1 trillion) to revamp the outdated force, which will result in budget crisis and hasty discontinuation of the ICBM force to save the costs, having detrimental effects to the nuclear deterrent, and (3) the SLBM force and strategic bomber force are much more important than the ICBM force, which is irrelevant to deterrence and second-strike capabilities. The first contention's harms were proven with multiple examples, and I also showed that the problem was inherent to the status quo. I used reliable estimates to justify the problems from the second contention. I proved the third contention by showing that ICBM's don't allow for easy de-escalation, and showed that they lack flexibility. Con's objection to (1) is weak because he hasn't demonstrated with any evidence that SLBM's and strategic bombers face similar security threats. Con completely drops (2). Con also drops (3) which essentially refutes Con's case.

In contrast, Con's contentions are weak. Con argues that (1) eliminating the ICBM force reduces the capabilities of the nuclear triad significantly, and (2) ICBM's are much easier and more efficient to operate than the other wheels of the triad. I refuted (1) by showing the complete lack of warrant, and also demonstrated that ICBM's lacked significant second-strike and deterrent capabilities. I also refuted (1) by extending the budget crisis contention. I refuted (2) by showing the lack of any warrant for the same, and turned it with de-escalation.

Debate convention dictates that there can be no new arguments or new responses made in the last round, as I don't have a chance to respond.

Conclusion: The small impact from easy operation is the only impact Con has left in their case. I have impacts of a budget crisis, nuclear terrorism, and prevention of nuclear war (via de-escalation) among others, which have mostly been dropped, and mean the saving of a lot of money and possibly even millions of lives. For these reasons, vote Pro.


nikhilworld123 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by tejretics 6 months ago

Thanks for the vote.
Posted by Vox_Veritas 6 months ago
The last I heard, the trillion dollars for the nuclear modernisation programme will be spent over the course of 30 years. That huge amount of money isn't being spent in a single year on this programme.
Posted by Seagull 6 months ago
Great opening argument! While reading your first contention sub point one I thought to myself... "Yeah, so why not fix security problems as opposed to eliminating them. You anticipated this with sub point B.

It is a shame that the debate is being forfeit.
Posted by famousdebater 6 months ago
@Tej - I thought you didn't like the opt in standards any more. After we debated you said that you were put off because the non opt in votes were fine and we're still removed because they weren't opt in.
Posted by tejretics 6 months ago
Remember that the first round is for acceptance only, so you should just type "I accept" and not argue.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by EndarkenedRationalist 6 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: I mean...this is an easy vote. CON never responded to any of PRO's arguments. This is all that matters, since PRO had the BoP. CON raised a few counter-arguments, like US disarmament weakening itself before the world, but this pales in comparison to PRO's points about the economic and militaristic inefficiencies in maintaining ICBMs. I could have essentially written FF here. Hi, Whiteflame.
Vote Placed by fire_wings 6 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision:
Vote Placed by Hayd 6 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: This vote is cast on behalf of the voters union. If you have an unvoted debate that passes our standards, submit it to tej, TUF, or DK to ensure two of our members vote on it.
Vote Placed by MagicAintReal 6 months ago
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: