Technology Acquisition and Arms Control: Thinking Through the Hypersonic Weapons Debate (Fall 2022)




Lee, Carrie A.

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Texas National Security Review



Debates in the United States about hypersonic weapons today revolve around acquiring hypersonic missiles and pursuing arms control initiatives, but concern about a hypersonic gap is misplaced and indicates a misunderstanding about the strategic trade-offs and benefits associated with hypersonic technology. Similarly, arms control solutions proposed to date have not paid enough attention to the specifics of the weapons and their implications for strategic stability. Using hypersonic weapons as a case study, I outline a theoretical framework for making decisions about acquiring new technology and developing arms control proposals. Ultimately, I conclude that U.S. policy on the acquisition of hypersonic missile technology overstates the immediate need for these missiles, falls short on offering strategies that would discourage adversaries from developing such weapons, and under-emphasizes the importance of nonproliferation efforts.

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