Strategic Command and Control: Redefining the Nuclear Threat
By Bruce G. Blair
Brookings, 1985, 341 pp.
The Button: The Pentagon's Command and Control System-Does It Work
By Daniel Ford
Simon & Schuster, 1985, 270 pp.
To many defense analysts, C3I (command, control, communications and intelligence) is the most vulnerable component of our nuclear deterrent. Bruce Blair, who once served in the Strategic Air Command as a Minuteman launch control officer and is a current Defense Department official, has written an important and valuable analysis of the physical and organizational arrangements which exist to control U.S. strategic forces, tracing their evolution over 25 years. His sensible recommendations call for (a) near-term improvements to assure that the system will not collapse under a Soviet first strike and will provide for prompt retaliation and (b) a long-term goal of delaying a retaliatory strike by at least 24 hours so as to maximize chances for survival. Daniel Ford, formerly executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, has written a less analytical, more descriptive (I-saw-the-machinery-and-it-won't-work) type of book, covering much of the same story. Readers will be rudely awakened to the dangers the author claims are in the C3I system, but they risk being considerably misled by his assertion that the Pentagon recognizes that "if the U.S. does not strike first in a crisis that develops into a nuclear war, it may be unable to strike back at all."