The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Elizabeth Heyd, 202-289-2424

New Report Recommends Nuclear Policy on the Path Toward Nuclear Disarmament

FAS and NRDC Chart Minimal Deterrent Nuclear Mission


In Prague, President Barack Obama called for a world without nuclear
weapons. Today, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and the
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report calling for
fundamental changes to U.S. nuclear war planning, a vital prerequisite
if smaller nuclear arsenals are to be achieved.

Counterforce to Minimal Deterrence -- A New Nuclear Policy on the Path
Toward Eliminating Nuclear Weapons" calls to abandon the almost
five-decade-long central mission for U.S. nuclear forces, which has
been and continues to be "counterforce," the capability for U.S. forces
to destroy an enemy's military forces, its weapons, its command and
control facilities and its key leaders.

"The current
rationale for maintaining an arsenal of nuclear weapons no longer
exists." said Ivan Oelrich, vice president of the Strategic Security
Program at FAS and one of the report authors. "And to get future
reductions in the number of weapons, we have to eliminate the missions
they are assigned."

The nuclear mission flows from
directives and guidance given by the president, through the Secretary
of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Strategic Command where
it is implemented into elaborate war plans. The report calls for
eliminating all but one mission for nuclear forces.

Obama has already taken the first step by stating America's commitment
to a world without nuclear weapons," said Robert S. Norris, senior
research associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council and
report co-author. "We present the radical changes needed in U.S.
policies to make disarmament a reality."

That sole
mission is deterrence, narrowly defined, to mean the certain capability
to retaliate if any nation was unwise enough to use nuclear weapons
against the United States or certain allies.

minimal deterrence, all requirements for war planners to achieve an
advantage in a nuclear exchange or limit damage to ourselves will
disappear, leaving only in place the most basic mission of a sure
retaliatory response," said Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS
Nuclear Information Project and report co-author.

The report makes these main points:

  • Current
    nuclear doctrine is an artifact of the Cold War that needs to be
    fundamentally altered. The counterforce mission, and all that goes with
    it, should be explicitly and publicly abandoned and replaced with a
    much less ambitious and qualitatively different doctrine.
  • A minimal deterrence mission should be adopted as a transitional step on a path to zero nuclear weapons.
  • The
    President must be continuously engaged in this transformation with
    specific and direct instructions to the national security
    bureaucracies. Otherwise, presidential intentions can be co-opted and
  • Once formulated the President should publicly announce the changed role for nuclear weapons and the new types of targets.
  • Under
    American leadership the process should lead to engagement with the
    other nuclear powers towards a global goal of abolition.
  • The
    new strategy can be carried out with weapons in the current arsenal. No
    new weapons need to be built nor an extensive new complex created.

To learn more about the report, please visit:

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