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The Internet and the Bomb:
A Research Guide to Policy and Information about Nuclear Weapons

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Nuclear Weapons Policy

There are four categories of nuclear weapons policy: declaratory, acquisition, employment and deployment.

  • Declaratory policy are the public statements that address such questions as why the United States possesses nuclear weapons (deterrence), how they might be used ("massive retaliation," "flexible response," "first use"), and what proposals there are to decrease their danger (arms control treaties, hot lines). This type of policy is intentionally public and is addressed to several audiences. It may send warning signals to adversaries or try and calm restive allies or domestic publics. Many of the documents, speeches and reports in this chapter fall into that category as expressed by the President, and officials of the State, Defense, and Energy Departments, as well as of NATO. Appendix E supplements the coverage here by providing a chronological bibliography of major government statements, speeches, and briefings from 1995 to the present.

  • Acquisition policy is the mostly public discussion of the nuts and bolts of researching, developing, and producing nuclear weapon systems. Much of what Congress deals with in its annual budget cycle has to do with the acquisition process. The questions include such things as, the overall size of the military and the percentages for each service, the kinds of weapon systems and the numbers in which they should be bought, and what technologies should be underwritten for tomorrow. Influencing and shaping these issues and policies are the corporations, laboratories, lobbyists, trade press, the vast sub-bureaucracies of the Pentagon that deal with this process, and the Congressional committees that listen to and act upon their requests. A portion of the process is classified and has to do with new technologies ("stealth") or secret programs (the B-2 bomber), or covert operations. The section of this chapter dealing with spending and contracting covers some aspects of acquisition policy.

  • Employment policy has to do with how nuclear weapons would actually be used. The details of this policy are incorporated in highly classified war plans, guidance documents and directives. The Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) is the central U.S. nuclear war plan specifying the options the President could order should he decide to authorize their use. The SIOP is prepared by Strategic Command at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Employment policy interacts with the other three policies by influencing what types of weapons are bought, where they are deployed, and to a limited extent, what can be said publicly about how they would be employed. Some declaratory statements hint at the real employment plans. To take one example it was said that, deterrence was enhanced because our targeting policy held "at risk Soviet war-making capabilities" . . . and "[p]laces at risk those political entities the Soviet leadership values most: the mechanisms for ensuring survival of the Communist party and its leadership cadres, and for retention of the party's control over the Soviet and Soviet-bloc peoples." (National Security Strategy of the United States, January 1988, p. 14.)

  • Deployment policy is closely entwined with employment policy and has to do with where the nuclear forces are based. Officially the Pentagon is silent on the locations of nuclear weapons but it is widely known where the bulk of them are. From the 1950s through the 1980s the U.S. had an enormous base structure that spanned the globe and nuclear weapons were located at hundreds of sites. Since the end of the Cold War there has been a huge consolidation to fewer sites, almost all--save a dozen air force bases in Europe-- within the continental United States. We cover the current deployment of U.S. nuclear forces in several Tables in the Nuclear Forces and Weapons section.

Presidential and National Policy

Current U.S. nuclear weapons policy -- acquisition, employment, and deployment -- was set as a result of the 1993-1994 Nuclear Posture Review conducted by the Pentagon and approved by the President. The results of the review were reported in the form of a number of briefings prepared by the various task forces. A public briefing (in the form of overhead projector slides) outlines the barest minimum of force structure decisions. A synopsis of the Review is contained in the Secretary of Defense's report to Congress for 1995 (online at http://www.dtic.mil/execsec/adr95/npr_.html).

A National Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, February 1996

Rebuilding America For A New Era, 1996

Excerpts from Presidential Speeches on Arms Control (ACDA Fact Sheet)

National Security Council Statements

Online Executive Orders (EO's), Notices and Letters to Congress Regarding Nuclear Weapons

Note: The House Internet Law Library maintains a list of Executive Orders at http://law.house.gov/uschelp.htm#exec.

  • Notice of Continuation of Emergency Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, 12 November 1996
  • Text Of A Letter From The President To The Speaker Of The House Of Representatives And The President Of The Senate regarding Extension of EO 12938, 4 November 1996
    Pursuant to section 229 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997, to inform the Congress that the United States has the capability to prevent the illegal importation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons into the United States and its possessions.
  • Executive Order 12946, President's Advisory Board on Arms Proliferation Policy, 23 January 1995
  • Executive Order 12938, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 14 November 1994
  • Executive Order 12903, Nuclear Cooperation with EURATOM, 9 March 1994
  • Executive Order 12868, Measures to Restrict the Participation by United States Persons in Weapons Proliferation Activities, 30 September 1993
  • Executive Order 12850, Conditions For Renewal of Most Favored Nation Status for the People's Republic of China in 1994, 28 May 1993
  • Executive Order 12840, Nuclear Cooperation with EURATOM, 9 March 1993

The "Negative Security Assurance," articulated by each Administration since President Carter, commits the United States not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, is documented on the Internet. See in particular,

Declaration By the President on Security Assurances for Non-Nuclear Weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Security assurances against the use of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon States that are Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, UNSCR 984, S/RES/984, 11 April 1995

Letter from the Permanent Representative of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations, NPT/CONF.1995/26, 27 April 1995

Historical NATO Nuclear Policy Documents

Declaratory NATO policy regarding nuclear weapons in Europe is well documented on the Internet (n English and French), including historic statements and decisions and official communiques of the Defense Planning Committee and Nuclear Planning Group.

Montebello Decision, 27 October 1983

The Alliance's Comprehensive Concept of Arms Control and Disarmement, 30 May 1989

The Alliance's New Strategic Concept, 8 November 1991

Alliance Policy Framework on Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 9 June 1994

NATO Nuclear Planning Group Communiques

Final Communique (M-DPC/NPG-1(96)88), 13 June 1996

Final Communique (M-DPC/NPG-2(95)117), 29 November 1995

Final Communique (M-DPC/NPG-1(95)57), 8 June 1995

Final Communique, 15 December 1994

Final Communique, 24 May 1994

Final Communique, 9 December 1993

Final Communique (M-DPC/NPG-1(93)36), 26 May 1993

Final Communique, 21 October 1992

Final Communique, 27 May 1992

Final Communique, 17 October 1991

Department of Defense Policy

Annual Report to the President and Congress
Searchable database of the 1995 and 1996 Secretary of Defense reports to Congress, a fundamental statement of DOD policy.

National Military Strategy of the United States of America
1995 version of the statement of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on U.S. military objectives.

United States Security Strategy for Europe and NATO, 1996

Key Defense Department Research, Development and Acquisition Documents

Defense Science and Technology Strategy

Defense Science and Technology Strategy, May 1996

Defense Technology Area Plan, May 1996
Sections on air platforms; chemical, biological defense and nuclear; and weapons.

Defense Technology Objectives of the Joint Warfighting Science and Techology and Defense Technology Area Plan, May 1996
The 562-page document covers the areas of Chemical, Biological Defense And Nuclear; Joint Theater Missile Defense and Counterproliferation.

DOD Basic Research Plan, 1996

Joint Warfighting Science and Technology Plan, 1996
Joint Warfighting Capability Objectives, Joint Warfighting Capability Assessments, and Joint Warfighting Experiments in Joint Theater Missile Defense and Counterproliferation.

Threats Assessments Regarding Proliferation

The Center for Nonproliferation Studies maintains an index of nonproliferation sites at http://cns.miis.edu/cnswebguide.html and the Federation of American Scientists Weapons of Mass Destruction Intelligence Assessments homepage http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/wmd.htm.

The 1995 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on "Emerging Missile Threats to North America During the Next 15 Years" (NIE 95-19) provoked a major controversy during the 1996 election year. The best coverage of the issue online is at the Stimson Center's Nuclear Roundtable at http://www.stimson.org/pub/stimson/rd-table/.

Key documents and sites regarding the threat to the United States:

Foreign Missile Threats: Analytic Soundness of Certain National Intelligence Estimates, NSIAD-96-225, 30 August 1996
GAO Report evaluating the validity of the NIE.

House National Security Chairman Floyd Spence's Statement upon release of the GAO report

Prepared testimony of Richard N. Cooper, Chairman National Intelligence Council, for hearings of the House National Security Committee, 28 February 1996
The testimony was prepared, but never delivered.

Prospects for the Worldwide Development of Ballistic Missile Threats to the Continental United States, 17 November 1993
Declassified passages from 1993 NIE.

DOD, Proliferation: Threat and Response, April 1996

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) also posts threat documents, including the annual "Global Threats to the United States and its Interests Abroad" and "North Korea: The Foundations for Military Strength" at http://www.dia.mil/. The "Gulflink: Persian Gulf War Illnesses Homepage" at http://www.dtic.mil/gulflink/ is also a source of partially declassified intelligence reports dealing with pre- and post-Gulf War Iraqi nuclear weapons developments. The database includes some general threat documents as well.

Nuclear Doctrine

The Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Electronic Library at http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/index.htm contains the text of most current unclassified doctrine manuals, with the noted exception of most Navy publications. Numerous current nuclear doctrine manuals are available online:

Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, JP 3-12, 15 December 1995

Doctrine for Joint Theater Nuclear Operations, JP 3-12-1, 9 February 1996

Nuclear Operations, AFDD-23, 26 August 1994

Doctrine for Joint Theater Missile Defense, JP 3-01.5, 22 February 1996

Joint Doctrine for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense, JP 3-11, 10 July 1995

Nuclear Doctrine and Policy Studies

A plethora of policy studies continues to be done in the think tanks and military "war colleges" regarding the nuclear "threat" and the use of nuclear weapons. Increasingly, access to these publications is available online in fulltext. See also Non-Governmental Commissions and Reports (below).

Explaining Weapons Proliferation: Going Beyound the Security Dilemma, July 1994
Air Force Institute for National Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 1.

Five Minutes Past Midnight: The Clear and Present Danger of Nuclear Weapons Grade Fissile Materials, February 1996
Air Force Institute for National Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 8.

Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense in the 21st Century, 1995
Army Center for Strategic Leadership study.

Nuclear deterrence and disarmament after the cold war, UCRL-JC-120281, 1 March 1995
Livermore Laboratory-sponsored study by Ronald F. Lehman online via the Library of the Future at http://www.llnl.gov/tid/lof.

Nuclear Proliferation: Diminishing Threat?, December 1995
Air Force Institute for National Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 6 by William Kincade.

Nuclear Proliferation: The Diplomatic Role of Non-Weaponized Programs, January 1996
Air Force Institute for National Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 7.

Regional Deterrence Strategies for New Proliferation Threats, April 1996
National Defense University Strategic Forum report.

U.S. Nuclear Declaratory Policy: The Question of Nuclear First Use, 1995
Summary and preface of RAND report proposing a U.S. declaratory policy of no-first-use of weapons of mass destruction, along with a policy "to reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in retaliation for any WMD attack."

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Title 10 Implications for the Military, 1995
Army Center for Strategic Leadership study.

Weapons Proliferation and Organized Crime: The Russian Military and Security Force Dimension, June 1996
Air Force Institute for National Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 10 by Graham H. Turbiville, Jr.

Department of Energy Policy

Department of Energy nuclear weapon policy is expressed in a variety of ways. One traditional way is through testimony before certain Congressional Committees and sub-committees. Policy statements and budget information on matters dealing with nuclear weapons are presented by officials of the Department when they appear before the Energy and Water subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the House National Security Committee and the Senate Armed Services Commiittee. To find these statements check the Homepages of the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs, the Office of Fissile Material Disposition, the Office of Nonproliferation and National Security, and the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management. Searching the DOE Congressional Question and Answer/Testimony Database can provide statements on almost any subject. It can be found at http://www.doe.gov/html/osti/qadbpg.html.

Public statements of DOE Policy are collected at the DOE "hot topic" homepage (http://www.doe.gov/html/doe/whatsnew/hottopic.html) and in the form of Press Releases at (http://www.doe.gov/html/doe/whatsnew/pressrel/releases.html). See also Appendix B for a listing of prominent DOE policy, technical and environmental reports online.

The Internet and the Bomb: A Research Guide to Policy and Information about Nuclear Weapons is written and maintained by William M. Arkin and Robert S. Norris. Any questions, comments or suggestions should be sent to the authors at warkin@igc.org and rnorris@nrdc.org. This page was last updated 5/1/97

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