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An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches March 23, 2015, at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Air Force photo by Joe Davila.

The three-branched nuclear weapons delivery triad remains a vital component of US defense, said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, during an AFA and industry-sponsored breakfast event Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Acknowledging the triad—consisting of strategic bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles—is an emotionally charged issue to many observers, Harencak said the weapons, nonetheless, are essential to western society. “The world is not safer today” than it was during the Cold War, Harencak said. “Capabilities take years,” he added, alluding to potential enemies. “People would rather not have nuclear weapons,” Harencak said. “I get that ... Our goal is to work toward a nuclear-free world,” but the world community is not likely to forswear violence and “hug it out,” he added. No military leader wants to walk into the Oval Office in the aftermath of an attack and be in the position of saying, “Mister President, we cannot neutralize that threat,” Harencak said. Hence, the continued need for a strong nuclear triad. “Nothing says stability more than ICBMs over all 50 states,” he said. “My best military advice is, ‘be prepared.’”