By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 16, 2008; A03
A National Research Council blue-ribbon panel of defense experts is recommending development and testing of a conventional warhead for submarine-launched intercontinental Trident missiles to give the president an alternative to using nuclear weapons for a prompt strike anywhere in the world.
In critical situations, such an immediate global strike weapon "would eliminate the dilemma of having to choose between responding to a sudden threat either by using nuclear weapons or by not responding at all," the panel said in a final report requested by Congress in early 2007 and released yesterday.
Congress has delayed funding the conventional Trident program for two years while providing more than $200 million for research and development of additional, longer-term concepts for quick global strikes. One major congressional concern was that to other countries, such as Russia or China, the launch of a conventional Trident missile could not be distinguished from a nuclear one and could be mistaken for the start of a nuclear war.