Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2013

Silver Bullet? Asking the Right Questions About Conventional Prompt Global Strike

James M. Acton

September 2013

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


The development of non-nuclear weapons that can strike distant targets in a short period of time has been a U.S. goal for more than a decade. Advocates argue that such Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) weapons could be used to counter antisatellite weapons or sophisticated defensive capabilities; deny a new proliferator the ability to employ its nuclear arsenal; and kill high-value terrorists. Critics worry that CPGS weapons could create serious strategic risks, most notably of escalation—including to the nuclear level—in a conflict.