The Trident Program and Strategic Policy

Date of Graduation

Fall 1995


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

William Van Cleave


Over the course of the last 45 years, the United States' strategic nuclear force posture has shifted in emphasis from bombers to ICBMS and finally to strategic submarines (SSBNs). The recent collapse of the Soviet Union and the signing of the START treaties produced a sudden and dramatic shift in policy that further increased America's reliance on SSBNs for strategic deterrence as the Bush Administration canceled the MX rail-car garrison and the Small ICBM programs, and accelerated the retirement of several older strategic systems. This thesis explores the history of the Trident submarine program in an effort to determine the factors leading to its increased role in the Triad and also explores the reasons why the submarine fleet has declined from 41 boats in 1980 to 15 boats today. Exploring these issues has involved the consideration of the Polaris, Poseidon and Trident systems, their capabilities, roles in the Triad and SIOP, the demands placed upon the Trident system by evolving strategic doctrine, their communications systems and the threat posed to the Trident system by former Soviet Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent decline in Russian naval activity, the former Soviet Union still possesses a very robust and modernized strategic nuclear force that the United States must continue to deter. Due to changes in American strategic forces, the role of deterrence has increasingly fallen to the Trident system.

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Randall David Crompton