But, in a crisis, those two goals might prove contradictory, raising all sorts of difficult questions.
What if Soviet bombers were en route to the United States but the President somehow couldn’t be reached?
During a national emergency, they argued, the consequences of not receiving the proper code from the White House might be disastrous.
And locked weapons might play into the hands of Communist saboteurs.
Aware that his decision might create public unease about who really controlled America’s nuclear arsenal, Eisenhower insisted that his delegation of Presidential authority be kept secret.
At a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he confessed to being “very fearful of having written papers on this matter.”President John F.
allies only when the White House was prepared to fight the Soviets.
The American military didn’t like the idea of these coded switches, fearing that mechanical devices installed to improve weapon safety would diminish weapon reliability.
A top-secret State Department memo summarized the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1961: “all is well with the atomic stockpile program and there is no need for any changes.”After a crash program to develop the new control technology, during the mid-nineteen-sixties, permissive action links were finally placed inside most of the nuclear weapons deployed by arsenal.
For years, the Air Force and the Navy blocked attempts to add coded switches to the weapons solely in their custody.