Donald Trump, who claims to be the “best on the military” among the 2016 Presidential candidates because he is the best at everything, apparently has no idea what the nuclear triad is. The revelation came during last night’s Presidential Debate when conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump a question about the need to modernize our nuclear forces.

(For those who, like Trump, have no idea what the nuclear triad is, that’s okay, we still love you, as you are not running for president. It refers to the American military doctrine of having land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles, and air-dropped bombs, all tipped with nuclear warheads. In an atomic shootout, all three fulfill different strategic and tactical uses based on whatever situation is at hand.)



Oddly enough, a description of the Nuclear Triad was embedded in Hewitt’s question, yet Trump still stumbled around the question, making almost no sense throughout his reply.

The exchange went as follows:

HEWITT: Mr. Trump... Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I’m frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you’re going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important.

But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out – if we didn’t have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can’t just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn’t care. It was hand-to-hand combat.

The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear – nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.

From Trump’s response, it’s clear that he either has no idea what the nuclear triad is, or that he had no idea what the question was and just decided to go with some sort of free-form jazz riff on the topic of “anything nuclear.” But even after Hewitt threw Trump another clue, he replied with total gibberish.


HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.

TRUMP: I think – I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.

Adding insult to bizarre injury, the exchange ended with Marco Rubio explaining the nuclear triad in detail.


HEWITT: Senator Rubio, do you have a response?

RUBIO: I do. First, let’s explain to people at home who the triad – what the triad is. Maybe a lot of people haven’t heard that terminology before. The triad is our ability of the United States to conduct nuclear attacks using airplanes, using missiles launched from silos or from the ground, and also from our nuclear subs’ ability to attack. And it’s important — all three of them are critical. It gives us the ability at deterrence.

Now, some have become more critical than others; for example, the submarines. And that’s the Ohio Class submarine that needs to be modernized. The air component also needs to be modernized. The B-52, as someone earlier pointed out, is an outdated model that was flown by the grandparents of people that are flying it now. And we need a serious modernization program as well on our silo-launched missiles. All three are critical for the defense of the country.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator Rubio.

You can see the exchange here:

Part of Hewitt’s question was not extremely easy for the average person to get. Most people probably don’t know about the ongoing need to upgrade each leg of our aging nuclear arsenal. The details include our land-based intercontinental ballistic missile systems, our airborne nuclear forces (which currently includes the development of an updated nuclear bomb and the Long Range Strike Bomber), or the initiative to replace America’s aging Ohio Class nuclear ballistic submarines, which are at the core of our second strike deterrent capability. But not even knowing what the nuclear triad is at its most basic level, or the strategy surrounding it, is alarming for someone who wants to have their hands on the nuclear codes.

It is also a concept that is directly tied to America’s ability to back-up the threat of mutual assured destruction, and is thus a major geopolitical staple beyond just a military one.



Maybe Trump needs to take his own advice that he blatantly eschewed in his answer above when it comes to selecting the next Commander-In-Chief: “I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important.” Not even knowing what the Nuclear Triad is, yet alone having an opinion on which legs need to be prioritized when it comes to expensive modernization, may disqualify himself by his own requirements.

Photo credit: AP

Contact the author at