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U.S. Nuclear Weapons Doctrine

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Operations Doctrine: Documents and Commentaries

In the spring of 2005, the Department of Defense provoked controversy when a draft revision of its doctrine for nuclear weapons operations was posted, and then removed, from a Department of Defense web site. Although the draft largely continued existing nuclear weapons use doctrine, it stated in unusually clear language U.S. policies regarding use of nuclear weapons in a wide variety of circumstances other than retaliation for nuclear weapons use by another state. In February 2006, the Department of Defense withdrew both the draft nuclear doctrine documents and their predecessors, as documented by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists:
"The Pentagon has formally cancelled a controversial revision of Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations after the doctrine was exposed last year in an article in Arms Control Today in September 2005 and the Washington Post. The revised draft included for the first time descriptions of preemptive use of US nuclear weapons, and caused the Senate Armed Services Committee to ask for a briefing, and 16 lawmakers to protest to President Bush." (For Kristensen's full account of the Pentagon's cancellation of the doctrine documents, click here)
This page provides links to the draft that was removed and related documents, and to relevant commentary.
Draft Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, Joint Publication 3-12, Final Coordination (2) 15 March 2005
This document, along with the comments from the various commands on the draft, were downloaded from the Joint Chiefs of Staff doctrine public web site. The site was shut down on April 7, 2005 after the contents of this and other doctrine documents provoked critical commentary. Although this document still is in draft and hence can not be cited as official policy, it provides an indication of how top military officials are thinking about nuclear weapons use.

Hans Kristensen, an independent researcher who long has done some of the best Freedom of Information Act work and commentary on U.S. nuclear weapons programs and doctrines, provided a good overview of the controversy in an article in arms control today:
Hans Kristensen,"New Doctrine Falls Short of Bush Pledge," Arms Control Today, September 2005.

Kristensen provides further information and related documents on his web site, The Nuclear Information Project, at http://www.nukestrat.com/us/jcs/jp.htm
In reaction to the new doctrine, a petition drive launched by physicists at the University of California, San Diego garnered 470 physicists as signers; the petition and supporting information can be found here: http://physics.ucsd.edu/petition/

Subsequently, the Defense Department also removed the current versions of doctrine documents for nuclear operations and theater nuclear operations. These documents are archived on the WSLF site:
Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (pdf file)

Doctrine for Joint Theater Nuclear Operations (pdf file)
Air Force Nuclear Operations Doctrine
"Nuclear Operations" Air Force Doctrine Document 2-1.5 15 July 1998 (pdf file)
Of related interest: U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Deterrence Joint Operating Concept, February 2004
A concept paper intended to help guide decisions about force development and weapons acquisition. This paper lays out a broad vision of "deterrence" encompassing preemptive warfare and an integrated spectrum of high-tech force, from conventional weapons with global reach to more "credible" nuclear options, intended to allow the U.S. to overpower adversaries anywhere on earth:
"Although advances in conventional kinetic and non-kinetic means (e.g., computer network attack (CNA), High Energy Radio Frequency (HERF), directed energy (DE), etc.) by 2015 will undoubtedly supplement U.S. nuclear capabilities to achieve these effects, nuclear weapons that are reliable, accurate, and flexible will retain a qualitative advantage in their ability to demonstrate U.S. resolve on the world stage. These capabilities should be further enhanced by improving our capability to integrate nuclear and non-nuclear strike operations. Providing the President an enhanced range of options for both limiting collateral damage and denying adversaries sanctuary from attack will increase the credibility of U.S. nuclear threats, thus enhancing deterrence and making the actual use of nuclear weapons less likely. Additionally, nuclear weapons allow the U.S. to rapidly accomplish the wholesale disruption of an adversary nation-state with limited U.S. national resources. While the legacy force was well suited for successful deterrence throughout the Cold War, an enhanced nuclear arsenal will remain a vital component of strategic deterrence in the foreseeable security environment" U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Deterrence Joint Operating Concept, February 2004, p.29
For recent WSLF commentary on related nuclear weapons policies and programs, see

War is Peace, Arms Racing is Disarmament: The Non-Proliferation Treaty and the U.S. Quest for Global Military Dominance, Western States Legal Foundation Special Report, by Andrew Lichterman with contributions from Jacqueline Cabasso, May 2005 full document(pdf) summary (6 pages, pdf) Information Brief version (2 pages, pdf)

Sliding Towards the Brink: More Useable Nuclear Weapons and the Dangerous Illusions of High-Tech War Andrew Lichterman, WSLF information Bulletin, March 2003 pdf download

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