News Release

New U.S. ICBM Tests Spark Criticism


Twice this week, on June 4 and 6, the U.S. Air Force and Space Force conducted tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The weapons were launched from the Vandenberg base near Lompoc, Calif., and aimed at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

In response, activists with the Defuse Nuclear War coalition issued a statement condemning the test launches “in the strongest possible terms” as a “wasteful, dangerous step backward for peace,” and urging that future scheduled ICBM tests be canceled.

The coordinator of the coalition, Emma Claire Foley, is the author of the landmark report “The Real Cost of ICBMs.” After this week’s tests, in an article titled “America’s Nuclear Missiles Make Its Citizens Less Safe,” she wrote that ICBMs “are not only strategically impractical but a threat to the lives of millions.”

Foley wrote: “Once an ICBM is launched, it cannot be recalled. U.S. ICBMs are stored in underground silos whose location is openly known (and readily available on Wikipedia). This means that anyone with enough nuclear weapons of their own to take out the entire force — at this point, only Russia — knows exactly where to aim them. This, in turn, puts a lot of pressure on the U.S. president, the only person legally authorized to order a U.S. nuclear strike. If the president receives word that there is an incoming attack on U.S. ICBMs, they have only a few minutes to decide whether to launch those weapons before the point becomes catastrophically moot.”

She added: “This ‘use it or lose it’ pressure has led to some documented ‘near misses’ — where minor errors of intelligence gathering and interpretation have nearly led to an accidental first nuclear strike by the United States. And the stakes are high: the warheads mounted on U.S. ICBMs that are kept ready to launch in silos are, together, about 8,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which killed well over 100,000 people.”

Foley is a specialist on nuclear-weapons policy issues with Her commentaries have been published by Newsweek, the Guardian, Jacobin and other outlets.