*This is a lightly edited report I published about a year ago for the Global Intelligence Trust. Given the ongoing crisis with North Korea, I figured a discussion of U.S. nuclear weapons policy would be appropriate.
This November, the United States will elect a new president. With major decisions to be made in a number of key areas, it is important to consider where the United States currently stands. From its budget to its counterterrorism strategy to its policies for combating environmental degradation and climate change, there are a plethora of issues with which the next administration will be forced to contend. One crucial area that is frequently overlooked is the United States’ nuclear arsenal and nuclear posture. Since the end of the Cold War, many people no longer view nuclear weapons as a major concern. This is a serious mistake; despite the end of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, the proliferation of new and potent threats means that nuclear strategy remains an immensely important aspect of American foreign policy. With newer nuclear powers racing to expand their arsenals and acquire more effective delivery systems, it is imperative that the United States considers its stance on nuclear weapons. This report offers a comprehensive assessment of U.S. nuclear capabilities and strategy and offers recommendations for the next administration. Specifically, this report investigates two major policy areas associated with U.S. strategic forces. First, it examines the development of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and its current configuration. In particular, the utility and effectiveness of the nuclear triad are assessed, and recommendations regarding cost-saving measures are listed. The second major area examined in this report is U.S. nuclear doctrine and potential modifications to improve it. Tracing the development of American nuclear strategy from the early days of the Cold War to the present, this report seeks to identify key trends and blind spots in American strategic thinking.
The current American nuclear force is organized in a triad arrangement. In other words, there are three major delivery systems through which the United States can execute a nuclear strike. The first and oldest component of the triad is the bomber force. Indeed, the first and only nuclear strikes conducted by the United States were executed by American heavy bombers at the end of World War II. The bomber component of the triad is slightly more complex, however, because there are two methods by which bombers can deliver nuclear warheads. The first method utilizes gravity bombs like the American B-61. These devices are relatively simple, and are dropped from bombers at high altitudes, using gravity to fall toward their targets. The other delivery system employed by bombers utilizes nuclear missiles. Unlike gravity bombs, these missiles are able to fly long distances, allowing them to be released at a greater distance from the target. The second component of the nuclear triad is the American ICBM force. These inter-continental ballistic missiles are housed in silos within the United States, and they are capable of striking targets quickly. Their ballistic trajectory is also advantageous in that it impedes missile defense systems’ ability to effectively intercept and destroy incoming warheads. The last leg of the triad is the fleet of American “boomers.” These SSBNs – nuclear submarines capable of launching nuclear ballistic missiles – are the most survivable component of the nuclear triad, able to hide beneath the waves and move without detection.
Despite the strategic advantages offered by the triad, the development of three mutually supportive delivery systems was largely an accident of happenstance triggered by inter-service budget competitions. During the early days of the Cold War, the Eisenhower administration developed the “New Look” strategy to offset Soviet conventional superiority. “New Look” directed large amounts of funding into the nascent U.S. Air Force in an effort to improve American bomber capabilities, as the bomber was the only operational nuclear delivery system at the time. This was a tremendously expensive endeavor, and the Air Force acquired 45% of the total defense budget. This understandably upset leadership in the Army and Navy and led these two service branches to lobby for an increase in funding. One strategy pursued by the Army and Navy was the development of their own nuclear delivery systems. The Navy had originally focused on carrier-launched nuclear-capable bombers. However, this plan was rejected by the Truman administration in the late 1940s in favor of the Air Forces B-36 bomber. Eventually, the Navy began to field nuclear-capable attack aircraft on their so-called “strike carriers,” but they were never able to compete with the Air Force’s long-range B-47 and B-52 bombers.
The Army and Navy were eventually able to improve their budget share due to three major developments: the maturation of cruise missile technology, the precipitous increase in Soviet nuclear weapons capabilities, and the installment of Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense. The development of cruise missile technology meant that the Air Force no longer had an effective monopoly on nuclear delivery systems, as bombers were no longer the sole means through which nuclear warheads could be delivered. The quantitative and qualitative increases in the Soviet nuclear arsenal helped to catalyze a newfound political will for diversifying American nuclear delivery systems. Finally, McNamara – a quantitatively inclined Secretary of Defense – felt that the Air Force budget was disproportionately large and pushed for an increase in Army and Navy funding. All three factors contributed to the development of a more diverse U.S. nuclear arsenal.
As the Cold War progressed, fears began to emerge that bombers were increasingly vulnerable to preemptive strikes, and there were concerns that advances in Soviet anti-aircraft capabilities would largely prevent American bombers from reaching Soviet targets, thus degrading their deterrent value. Furthermore, rumors began to surface that a so-called “bomber gap” was emerging, with the Soviets pulling ahead of the U.S. in terms of bomber forces. Despite unambiguous evidence from American spy planes indicating that the “bomber gap” was largely overblown, public pressure compelled Eisenhower to improve American bomber forces and invest in non-bomber delivery systems like missiles. Missiles began to receive much higher priority and funding as the growing vulnerabilities of bombers became increasingly apparent. While the Air Force prioritized cruise missiles, the Army invested in the development of ballistic missiles. By the late 1950s, the Air Force had begun deploying intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) like Thor and Jupiter to Europe. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of targeting the Soviet Union from bases in the United States began to emerge in the early 1960s with the development of Atlas E and Titan I. These first generation ICBMs were quickly upgraded to the second generation Minuteman I and Titan II missile systems, which did not have to be fueled before launching, allowing them to be launched far more quickly than earlier ICBM systems.
The development of IRBM and ICBM systems proved insufficient to assuage concerns over Soviet nuclear superiority. Many in the public, as well as a number of intelligence analysts, viewed the launch of Sputnik with alarm, and they began to worry that the Soviets possessed a far more advanced missile program than the United States. Thus, the “bomber gap” came to be replaced by the “missile gap.” The “missile gap” was eventually revealed to be just as hyperbolic and overblown as the “bomber gap” that preceded it. U-2 spy planes, Corona spy satellites, and Soviet defectors all revealed that American fears of Soviet missile superiority were entirely baseless. Indeed, a number of government analysts argued that the U.S. would likely be able to effectively execute a nuclear first strike, as Soviet strategic forces were not nearly as numerous as many alarmists had believed. Nevertheless, public fears of Soviet superiority continued to bubble up, and the Navy was able to capitalize on these fears to secure funding for its development of the submarine-launched Polaris system, which was deployed for the first time in 1960. With the Navy’s development of its own nuclear delivery system, the nuclear triad was officially born.
Despite its seemingly accidental creation, the nuclear triad has proven to be a highly effective system because each component complements the other two. Nuclear-capable bombers may be re-based or flown over potential flashpoints to signal resolve and caution adversaries of the United States’ nuclear capabilities. Indeed, this capability was recently demonstrated when the U.S. flew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the East China Sea and Korean Peninsula in response to Chinese and Korean provocations. The ICBM component of the triad provides the president with the ability to rapidly launch a nuclear salvo at any point on Earth since ICBM forces have greater range than SSBNs and bombers. Finally, the SSBN force provides security against a nuclear first strike, as submarines’ stealth ensures that some of them would survive a nuclear attack. This is critically important because it ensures that the United States will always maintain the ability to retaliate, even if the majority of American nuclear forces have been destroyed. This redundant network is incredibly expensive, however, and the recent nuclear modernization program being undertaken by the Pentagon is placing enormous strains on the American defense budget. Thus, it is unclear whether the triad is fiscally sustainable. Ideally, the United States would maintain all three legs of the nuclear triad to maximize deterrent capabilities. However, if current budget pressures persist, difficult choices might need to be made.
The U.S. is currently committed to modernizing all of its existing nuclear delivery systems. This requires that money be spent on four major modernization programs: the Ohio Replacement Class Submarine, the Ground Base Strategic Deterrent (ICBM upgrade), the Long-range Standoff Missile, and the B-21 strategic bomber. In total, this modernization effort is projected to cost $350-$450 billion over a 20-year period. This represents an enormous cost increase in nuclear-related spending, and it will raise nuclear spending from around 3% of the DoD budget to 7%. This enormous increase in nuclear spending comes at a time when the United States is facing severe readiness problems throughout all of its major branches. Indeed, as Mackenzie Eaglen elucidates in a report for the American Enterprise Institute, U.S. military capabilities have atrophied over the past few years, especially since the imposition of sequestration. This raises the question of whether devoting so many resources to funding nuclear modernization is a wise choice when many other vital components of the U.S. military lack the requisite resources and funding to meet combatant commanders’ needs. While the U.S. would ideally continue to upgrade the entirety of its nuclear force, retaining its full range of capabilities, this report finds that goal to be unrealistic in light of shrinking budgets and the proliferation of threats that exist below the nuclear threshold. A reduction in strategic forces is a necessary step given their diminishing utility and immense costs. Thus, the United States should work to eliminate one leg of the nuclear triad in order to redirect funding toward more relevant capabilities.
Each component of the nuclear triad plays an important role in maintaining U.S. nuclear dominance. However, some legs are more important than others. If the United States were to eliminate one leg of the triad, most analysts agree that leg should be the ICBM force. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the ICBM forces’ alacrity is overstated. Indeed, a GAO report from the early 1990s concluded that there was no meaningful difference between SSBN responsiveness and ICBM responsiveness. According to the report, “SSBN[s] are in essentially constant communication with national command authorities and, depending on the scenario, SLBM from SSBNs would be almost as prompt as ICBMs in hitting enemy targets.” The primary argument for maintaining the ICBM component of the triad – that ICBMs represent a reliable and quick delivery platform – therefore seems to lack merit. ICBM forces also possess another major shortcoming: ICBMs often must fly over other countries before reaching their target. This could lead to disastrous consequences, as it heightens the risk of a nuclear miscalculation. As Jeffrey Lewis summarizes, “Russia… lie[s] between the United States and most… places we might someday want to nuke. The United States is extraordinarily unlikely to light up the Russian EW system with… nuclear weapons en route to someplace else.” In other words, ICBMs are basically impracticable because practically every launch, regardless of where the targets lie, would likely have a ballistic trajectory taking American ICBMs over Russian territory, causing Russian early warning systems to light up and potentially lead to a Russian retaliatory strike on the U.S. The Cato Institute’s report The End of Overkill also makes a valid point that most defenses of the triad are lazy regurgitations of antiquated arguments, and many of the supposed benefits of the triad are merely talking points designed to ensure the different service branches get a piece of the nuclear pie.
Some analysts, including the authors of the aforementioned Cato report, contend that the United States should eliminate its nuclear-capable bomber force as well as its ICBM forces. Arguing that modern air defense systems render bombers obsolete, these analysts posit that the United States should place all of its nuclear eggs into the submarine basket. This report disagrees with those assessments for a number of reasons, however. First, bombers are crucial in signaling resolve. Highly visible bomber flights like those conducted over the East China Sea and Korean Peninsula remind adversaries of America’s global military reach and show America’s willingness to escalate. These costly signals bolster deterrence by being highly visible. The ability to send credible nuclear signals to adversaries is just as important as being able to retaliate against a nuclear attack because signaling is a fundamental component of deterrence. The bomber force is also necessary because only bombers are capable of delivering tactical nuclear weapons, smaller yield weapons designed for battlefield use. If the U.S. were to shift to an exclusively submarine-based force, nuclear powers like Russia might be tempted to use tactical weapons of their own, knowing that the United States would not likely unleash a full-scale retaliatory attack at the strategic level in response to a relatively small nuclear attack. In other words, the bomber force is crucial to maintaining deterrent credibility across the escalation spectrum. The final reason that the bomber component should be retained is that nuclear-capable bombers are dual-use systems capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear payloads. Maintaining strategic, stealthy bombers is critical for U.S. power projection beyond the deployment of nuclear weapons. Thus, it makes little sense to eliminate nuclear capabilities from a bomber that will be utilized regardless of America’s arsenal type and nuclear doctrine.
Other military officials and nuclear analysts contend that the nuclear triad should be maintained, but the ICBM force should be transitioned to a road mobile force. They argue that a mobile ICBM force would enhance deterrence by making it harder for adversaries to launch a nuclear first strike. Because ICBMs would be constantly moving, other countries would struggle to ascertain the locations of American ICBMs. This dynamic is simply not possible with static, silo-based ICBM forces. Despite the advantages of a mobile ICBM force, there are also significant drawbacks that render them inefficient. The most worrisome problem associated with road mobile systems is their relative lack of security. Unlike silo-based ICBMs, road mobile systems are carried in the back of a large truck, making them more vulnerable to theft or tampering. Moreover, the constant redeployment of road mobile systems necessitates a highly complex command and control system to keep track of constantly moving munitions. This would increase the probability of accidents occurring. The novelty of a mobile ICBM system would also drive up costs, with a recent RAND report suggesting that a rail-based system would have a lifetime cost of $199 billion (2012 dollars) and a road mobile system $219 billion. Obviously, this level of spending would represent a significant cost increase above even the current plans for modernization. There are barriers beyond just the high costs, however. There would likely be significant political opposition to this nuclear transition, as effective road mobile systems would require large amounts of government land through which to roam, likely angering citizens who rely on that land for their livelihood. In conclusion, there are a number of innovative and thoughtful proposals for modernizing and improving American strategic forces. However, there are few compelling arguments for maintaining the ICBM leg of the triad. Thus, moving to a dyad configuration represents the best approach to maximizing capabilities while reducing costs.
Transitioning to a nuclear dyad will yield significant savings over an extended period of time, allowing the government to reinvest in conventional readiness, expand domestic spending, or provide tax cuts to the middle class. It is difficult to determine the exact level of savings that a dyad would provide, since the government does not release an itemized breakdown of costs related to nuclear weapons. However, it is possible to generate a rough approximation. The elimination of the ICBM force would first remove the need for expensive modernization funding. Current ICBM modernization plans call for an upgrade of the Minuteman III missile, estimated to cost $7 billion, as well as the development of a new ICBM system, estimated to cost $62 billion between 2015 and 2044. Thus, it is reasonable to estimate a savings of at least $70 billion over the next 30 years from just the elimination of modernization programs. However, there would be further savings due to the elimination of maintenance costs. The ICBM force alone is estimated to cost the United States $2.5 to $3 billion per year, and there are conservatively $2-$5 billion (annual) more that could be saved through the reduction in NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) weapons activities associated with the ICBM force. Thus, projecting out only to the end of the currently planned modernization timeline in the 2040s, the U.S. could save around $220 billion. Of course, a sizeable amount of money would need to be spent in order to safely and securely decommission the U.S. ICBM force. Estimating based on the costs of maintaining the current ICBM force, however, it seems likely that long-term savings associated with the elimination of the ICBM leg would still vastly outweigh decommissioning costs.
Beyond simply the composition of its nuclear arsenal, the United States must also consider its nuclear posture and strategy for the 21st century. Recently, rumors have begun to emerge suggesting that the Obama Administration is considering a “no first use” (NFU) doctrine, allowing the launch of U.S. nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack. Unsurprisingly, speculation on this topic has triggered a fierce debate within the nuclear community. There are other considerations as well, such as whether the United States should continue its “launch under attack” posture and how the United States can maintain credible extended deterrence. U.S. nuclear doctrine represents an integral and complex component of American national defense strategy. Thus, any changes to the current U.S. posture should occur only following much deliberation. Nevertheless, this report recommends a number of significant changes to improve American nuclear posture and reduce nuclear-related instability.
America first began to ponder nuclear doctrine at the end of World War II. In the final days of the war, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons – Little Boy and Fat Man – over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, helping to bring an end to the long and bloody conflict. President Harry Truman originally considered nuclear weapons to be simply very large bombs and contemplated delegating launch authority to lower level commanders. However, he soon realized the fearsome power of the new weapon and the gravity of a war involving nuclear weapons. Thus, Truman pushed the Baruch Plan, a proposed international agreement to place nuclear weapons under international control.
The peaceful internationalization of nuclear weapons was not meant to be, however, as the Berlin Crisis of 1948 soured relations between East and West. Part of the American response to the crisis was to put Strategic Air Command (SAC) on high alert and to feign the deployment of nuclear capable bombers to the United Kingdom. In fact, the bombers deployed to the U.K. were not capable of delivering nuclear weapons, but they nonetheless sent a credible signal to Soviet leadership that the United States was taking the provocation very seriously. During these early days, the United States still lacked any coherent strategy for the deployment of nuclear weapons. There were no concrete strike plans drawn up by the Air Force, and there was much debate among key policymakers like Secretary of Defense Forrestal and NSC (National Security Council) advisor Admiral Souers regarding the optimal usage of nuclear weapons. In response to this confusion, the NSC drew up a strategy document titled “NSC-30: United States Policy on Atomic Weapons.” This policy paper mandated that the armed forces be prepared to rapidly deploy and use nuclear weapons. However, realizing the destructive power of nuclear weapons, the document also explicitly confirmed that the President possessed sole authority for ordering the release of nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the Berlin Crisis ended without incident, but it effected permanent changes to American nuclear strategy, prompting the United States to institutionalize its nuclear force and develop a coherent strategy for the execution of a nuclear strike.
America’s early nuclear strategy embraced a doctrine targeting urban centers in order to eliminate Soviet industrial capacity and administrative centers. Amassing the capability necessary to execute this strategy took time, as the American nuclear arsenal in the late 1940s and early 1950s was small and required time for assembly and deployment. Therefore, the United States worked to remedy these deficits by adopting a strategy of “massive retaliation.” American nuclear development and strategic planning assumed a greater urgency after the Soviets detonated their first nuclear weapons in 1949. Now, the United States needed to not only destroy Soviet industrial and political centers, but it also needed to target and eliminate Soviet nuclear weapons sites. This necessitated a much larger arsenal, and the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States increased from 250 to 18,000 between 1950-1960. Due to the development of Soviet nuclear weapons, the United States became far more pessimistic about its odds in a war against the U.S.S.R. Thus, NSC-68 moved to explicitly permit a preemptive attack in the event of an imminent Soviet attack. U.S. nuclear strategy became a blunting strategy that aimed to slow a potential Soviet advance into Eastern Europe and degrade Soviet nuclear capabilities.
The strategy of massive retaliation was pressed diligently by the Eisenhower administration, as they felt that their threats to deploy nuclear weapons in Korea contributed to the signing of a ceasefire. America’s strategy became to escalate rapidly and use overwhelming force to cripple adversaries’ will to fight. To be clear, the United States never seriously considered an unprovoked “bolt from the blue” type strike, as it was viewed as too risky and in violation of American philosophy on legitimate warfare. However, the U.S. was committed to striking first in the event of an impending Soviet strike. This thinking led to the creation of the first national nuclear war strategy, SIOP-62. SIOP-62 truly embraced the philosophy of massive retaliation, planning to strike the entirety of the Soviet Union, China, and their allied satellite states. This meant, however, that the American nuclear plan lacked any flexibility, as there were no options for more limited strikes against certain countries or certain tactical theaters.
President Kennedy found SIOP-62 lacking and immediately worked to revise the American nuclear strategy. Secretary of Defense McNamara agreed with Kennedy and tasked the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the development of a more nuanced, discriminating set of strategic options. McNamara settled on a two-part strategy in which the United States would retain the ability to rapidly strike Soviet military forces in a preemptive strike, but would not seek to target Soviet urban areas initially. Thus, McNamara shifted nuclear procurement toward ICBM and SLBM capabilities, as these – unlike bombers – could be held back in reserve during the initial nuclear attack in order to continue to hold Soviet urban areas at risk. He then helped develop SIOP-63, which allowed the President to discriminate based on strategic, conventional, and civilian targets as well as choose to strike specific countries rather than the entire network of communist states. This change in policy marked an important shift in American nuclear thinking, as it was primarily oriented around the ability to ensure second strike capabilities. In other words, the singular focus on preemptive strikes no longer existed, even as the capability to launch preemptive strikes was retained. This change took place in large part due to McNamara’s concern that a massive retaliation-style approach would lead to destabilizing dynamics during a nuclear crisis. In particular, he grew concerned that Soviet fears of an American first strike would encourage them to launch their own surprise attack on the United States in order to neutralize the American arsenal before it could take out Soviet military and industrial capabilities.
It was also during the 1960s that the United States developed its “flexible response” doctrine. Flexible response was initially developed as an answer to criticisms that Eisenhower’s massive retaliation was simply not credible. Given a Soviet conventional invasion of Central Europe, it was simply unbelievable that the United States would launch its entire nuclear arsenal. Thus, paradoxically, the threat of massive nuclear war actually undermined deterrence, as many began to view it as an exaggerated and empty threat. Flexible response remedied these problems by planning for the limited use of small nuclear weapons at the tactical level. Analysts felt that while a strike on Moscow in response to an invasion of West Germany might not be credible, the threat of detonating tactical nuclear weapons to protect American allies from being overrun was a far more credible threat. Much like SIOP-63, flexible response was designed to grant U.S. policymakers more options and greater strategic flexibility.
American nuclear doctrine changed again under the Nixon administration. Beyond the modernization of the ICBM force and negotiation of key arms control treaties like ABM and SALT, the Nixon administration also developed a new nuclear doctrine known as the Schlesinger Doctrine. The Schlesinger Doctrine sought to expand upon changes made under Kennedy and grant further flexibility to U.S. policymakers. Its two stated goals were to provide a credible threat of NATO nuclear first use in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe and to offer additional options through which to wage a limited nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Like many of the previous doctrines, the Schlesinger Doctrine was based upon counterforce/counter-military targeting at lower escalation levels, but it maintained countervalue targeting at the level of full-scale nuclear war in order to eliminate the industrial centers necessary for rebuilding the U.S.S.R. after an attack. In short, the Schlesinger Doctrine sought to fulfill two major roles. At lower levels of conflict, it was designed to provide tactical level nuclear options for deterring and defeating a conventional invasion of Western Europe by the U.S.S.R. as well as generate proportional response options for the employment of low-yield Soviet nuclear weapons. At higher levels of conflict, it was designed to provide massive strike options capable of wiping out the Soviet Union’s industrial capacity and workforce in order to damage their strategic position.
The final iteration of the American Cold War nuclear strategy was developed by President Jimmy Carter and tweaked by President Ronald Reagan. Facing a Soviet Union with improved anti-air and civil defense capabilities as well as an improved ICBM force capable of putting the majority of American Minuteman ICBMs at risk, the Carter Administration ordered a nuclear posture review. This review culminated in Presidential Directive 59 (PD 59). This directive was grounded in the philosophy of “the countervailing strategy.” The countervailing strategy was based on the idea of strategic empathy: instead of trying to determine areas of importance from an American point of view, this strategy sought to understand the values held by Soviet leadership. The strategy entailed three primary targeting focuses. The first was the targeting of political leadership, reflecting a belief that holding political leadership at risk would force Soviet leaders to consider the costs of a nuclear exchange on themselves. The second targeting priority was the Soviet conventional and nuclear forces. It was believed that Soviet improvements in strategic weaponry were eroding American counterforce capabilities, thus undercutting American deterrence. By improving the U.S. arsenal and optimizing it for the elimination of Soviet military forces in an extended nuclear war, it was hoped that deterrence would be improved as the advantages associated with a first strike would be minimized. Finally, this strategy deemphasized the importance of industry – as this was seen to require too many warheads – and instead prioritized targeting logistics networks and other infrastructure vital for engaging in nuclear war. The Reagan administration tweaked targeting priorities and deemphasized countervalue targeting even more than Carter, but the overall strategy developed in the late 70s was largely maintained.
The Bush administration led the next major change in U.S. nuclear posture. Facing no peer-competitors, George W. Bush and his national security team chose to pursue a far looser nuclear posture, as the end of the Cold War left them largely unconstrained in regard to nuclear decisions. Bush reoriented the arsenal away from a “threats-based” approach toward a “capabilities based approach.” While Bush did decrease the American arsenal size, he also invested heavily in missile defense, withdrawing from the ABM Treaty negotiated by Nixon, and upgraded nuclear infrastructure. The hallmark of Bush’s strategy, however, was strategic ambiguity. Bush and his team never clearly explained the circumstances under which it would be comfortable deploying nuclear weapons, and simply guaranteed that “all options were on the table.” The Obama administration entered office far more skeptical of the use of nuclear weapons than Bush. Indeed, Obama made a 2009 speech in Prague in which he declared that nuclear proliferation should be forcefully combatted and that the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign policy would be “downgraded.” While many criticize Obama for not following through on his promises in Prague, the administration has seen some important successes. For example, in April 2010, Obama negotiated New START with the Russian Federation, significantly reducing the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia. Then, in 2015 Obama was able to push through the JCPOA, an agreement that constrained Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief. Now, in his final months as President of the United States, Barack Obama is purportedly looking to change U.S. nuclear posture, committing to an NFU pledge. At this point, there are too few details to know with certainty the direction in which Obama will take U.S. nuclear weapons policy. What is clear is that Obama, perhaps disappointed by his inability to do more to minimize the role of nuclear weapons in international politics, is considering paths by which he can make one more lasting impact in his final days in office.
Predicting the future of U.S. nuclear weapons doctrine is challenging, as the United States will soon have a new commander in chief, and at least one of the presidential candidates seems to lack a coherent policy platform for nuclear weapons. What can be discussed are potential approaches through which American nuclear doctrine may be improved. First, this section will examine the impacts of an NFU policy and highlight both the advantages and disadvantages of restricting the employment of nuclear weapons to only serve as a response to nuclear strikes. Then, the United States’ current posture of “launch under attack” will be analyzed. Finally, this section will consider the value of extended deterrence.
As alluded to previously, Obama’s consideration of an NFU posture has led to much angst among many in the foreign policy community. Others, however, have been broadly supportive of a change in this direction. This sharp disagreement is important, as it indicates that this impactful decision is receiving scrutiny and will, therefore, likely be exhaustively reviewed. It is also helpful for this report in particular, as it guarantees that a rich literature base has accumulated from which this report draws heavily. The primary concern of those who are opposed to an NFU is that it would degrade U.S. deterrence in areas like Eastern Europe or the Korean Peninsula. This could potentially be catastrophic, as the large land powers like Russia and North Korea might be more willing to utilize massive conventional force, comfortable in the belief that their large maneuver formations are not at risk of being targeted by nuclear weapons. In some respects, this debate mirrors the one that informed the decision to adopt the policy of flexible response.
One of the central criticisms of an American NFU posture is that it appears to be tone deaf. With Russia developing a strategy of “nuclear de-escalation” (an almost paradoxical strategy in which the Russian military plans to escalate to the nuclear level in order to de-escalate conflict) and North Korea surging ahead in its quest to build a powerful nuclear arsenal, it simply sends the wrong signal to potential American adversaries. This argument was recently advanced by Al Mauroni and David Jonas, who wrote that “because adversary nuclear weapons still exist as an existential threat today, the readiness of U.S. nuclear weapons has a place in current national security discussions.” They go on to argue that “We want the leaders of Russia, China, and other states to hesitate before attacking the United States because they know the United States has more than 1,000 nuclear weapons ready to launch on the president’s order.” A similar argument is advanced by Andrew Shearer. Shearer focuses more on the threat of conventional attacks and the necessity of nuclear weapons to defeat them. Shearer maintains that adopting an NFU is deeply dangerous because “Sometimes, nuclear weapons are the only way to offset a large mismatch in conventional forces — for example in Cold War Europe and on the Korean Peninsula.” Shearer also argues that an NFU posture risks increasing the odds of American allies proliferating, as American allies would no longer have an American nuclear umbrella guaranteeing them against conventional invasions. Elbridge Colby, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, makes a similar argument in Foreign Policy Magazine, positing that “The point of reserving the right to use nuclear weapons first… is to communicate… that attacking one’s vital interests too harshly or successfully… risks prompting a devastating nuclear response, something… far more costly than any realistic gains.” In other words, Colby contends that the adoption of an NFU would make a costly conventional war more likely, as rival great powers would no longer fear a nuclear strike were they to initiate a conflict.
There is recent scholarly research suggesting that analysts like Colby are at least partially correct. Indeed, Paul C. Avery argues in the journal Security Studies that the threat of nuclear use raises the costs of war for even non-nuclear states despite the credibility challenges inherent in the threat to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. In other words, despite the moral and institutional pressures against the use of nuclear weapons during a war with a purely conventional-armed state, non-nuclear states still view the risk of nuclear escalation as credible. Specifically, Avery looks at the Yom Kippur War and the First Gulf War and finds evidence suggesting that the Egyptian and Iraqi governments engaged in costly actions like increasing civil defense funding and conducting studies on the effects of nuclear weapons in order to guard against potential nuclear attacks by Israel and the United States respectively. Given the scope and intensity of these conflicts, it would seem illogical for the Egyptian and Iraqis governments to devote valuable resources toward mitigating the costs of a nuclear attack unless they deemed the risk of nuclear conflict to be reasonably high. Avery’s work, however, is not necessarily an endorsement of threatening nuclear first use. After all, despite clear and measurable fears that their adversaries might employ nuclear weapons, the Egyptian and Iraqi governments nevertheless initiated their wars of aggression. In other words, the threat of nuclear escalation – while certainly playing a role in Egyptian and Iraqi war planning – was insufficient to deter aggression.
Proponents of an NFU doctrine argue that the threat of nuclear escalation against non-nuclear states lacks credibility because it is almost inconceivable that U.S. policymakers would authorize nuclear use against a non-nuclear power. This contention is bolstered by research from T.V. Paul that suggests that even if non-nuclear states fear potential nuclear escalation (as Paul C. Avery suggests), American policymakers self-constrain. In other words, there is almost no empirical evidence suggesting that U.S. leaders would ever actually use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional attack. Therefore, tactical nuclear weapons seem to possess only limited utility. NFU advocates also contend that there is no real possibility of limiting the scope of a nuclear conflict. Thus, the use of tactical nuclear weapons is essentially a de facto escalation to strategic nuclear war. Advocates of an NFU posture further contend that by maintaining the capability to initiate a nuclear first strike, the U.S. engenders fear in other countries of potential decapitation strikes. Thus, many otherwise restrained nuclear powers are forced to adopt more forward-leaning postures designed for rapid launch, which increases the risk of a nuclear mishap or inadvertent escalation. The argument follows that a more restrained nuclear posture would decrease the risk of devastating miscalculations during a crisis. There is also skepticism among those advocating for an NFU declaration that the threat of nuclear escalation is at all credible during a conventional conflict. As Daryl Kimball explains, “U.S. nuclear first use would run a high risk of triggering an uncontrollable… escalation of nuclear weapons use… As a result, the threat of using nuclear weapons first to counter non-nuclear attacks lacks credibility.” Finally, analysts like Kimball and Michael Krepon disagree with the notion that the threat of nuclear escalation is key to reassuring allies. Krepon posits that investment in conventional force presence in potential hotspots like the Baltics and Korea would do far more than tactical nuclear weapons to deter and defeat rival states. Furthermore, he contends that America’s current nuclear posture does little to deter adversaries’ aggression, citing the “long list of troubling behavior by Russia, China and North Korea compiled while Washington has adhered to a first-use posture.” In short, pro-NFU arguments are based around the danger of miscalculations generated by the risk of a nuclear first strike and the poor deterrent value tactical nuclear weapons have against conventional forces.
This report recommends a middle-ground approach to the question of NFU. The United States should maintain its stated willingness to utilize nuclear weapons first for the immediate future. Given North Korean saber rattling and Russian aggression in Eastern Europe as well as the divisive presidential race in the U.S., American allies are rightly spooked and require assurances that the United States will not abandon them in the event of a conflict. Over the next few years, however, the United States should move toward a declaration of no first use. Ultimately, this report finds the arguments for the first use of nuclear weapons to be overstated at best and dangerously lacking at worst. The risk of nuclear first use has not prevented provocative actions by Russia and North Korea, it did not deter conflict during the Kashmir Crisis, and it rests on the risky assumption that tactical nuclear wars would not escalate, a dangerous bet indeed. Furthermore, there is little compelling evidence to suggest that allies, if given time to prepare, would be overly concerned by the adoption of an American NFU, as reductions in American forward-deployed nuclear weapons after the Cold War did not trigger alliance crises. Despite recommending the eventual adoption of an NFU posture, this report still recommends that the United States retain its tactical nuclear weapons in order to possess adequate response capabilities in the event that another country employs tactical nuclear weapons. In other words, were a country like Russia to employ tactical nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe, the U.S. should retain the capability to respond in kind. If the United States were to eliminate its tactical nuclear stockpile, its deterrent credibility would suffer, as it is unlikely that U.S. policymakers would be comfortable retaliating against battlefield nuclear use by detonating strategic nuclear missiles.
The next posture-related question examined by this report is whether the United States should retain its ability to launch under attack. Like questions of NFU, the debate over America’s launch under attack posture has evoked impassioned arguments within the arms control and nuclear studies fields. Jeffrey Lewis, an analyst at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, recently advocated for the elimination of America’s launch under attack posture. Lewis specifically argues that a posture designed to launch a retaliatory strike as soon as enemy nuclear launches are detected – in other words, launch under attack – risks miscalculation. Given the enormous number of false alarms and mistakes within the nuclear force, it is certainly not inconceivable that American policymakers, believing that the country is under attack, initiate a nuclear strike on a country that has not in fact launched at the United States. Given America’s secure SSBN force and vast arsenal, it is unlikely that a first strike could significantly degrade the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Thus, it would be better to wait out a strike on the U.S. to ensure that America is actually under a nuclear attack before starting a global thermonuclear war.
Other analysts like Al Mauroni contend that this is a false choice, since providing the President with the ability to launch under attack does not force the U.S. to initiate a nuclear strike as soon as early warning satellites indicate an attack has begun. Indeed, the President can choose to wait as long as he or she deems necessary before launching an attack. This report agrees with analysts like Mauroni, and thus recommends maintaining America’s ability to launch under attack. Maintaining the ability to launch under attack also bolsters deterrence, as it lowers the chances of an adversary erroneously believing that a first strike would be able to damage the U.S. nuclear arsenal sufficiently to avoid large-scale retribution. In other words, knowing that American nuclear weapons could be launched before they could be destroyed further decreases the odds of an adversary believing that a disarming strike would succeed, reducing the risk that a country would launch a nuclear first strike at the United States. One final reason for maintaining a constant launch under attack posture is that it prevents a posture escalation race. It is likely that during a crisis, a U.S. president would seek to return to a launch under attack policy in order to have more options. Seeing this change in posture toward an arguably more aggressive stance might spook adversaries in a crisis, raising the odds of a dangerous escalation. Thus, it is safer to simply retain the launch under attack posture rather than change it in unpredictable ways.
One area of broad agreement among the nuclear studies community is that the United States should unequivocally maintain its so-called “nuclear umbrella” over allied states. Also referred to as “extended deterrence,” this policy of guaranteeing allies with American nuclear weapons has been one of the major cornerstones of U.S. nuclear policy. Recently, however, the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested ending American nuclear deterrence in East Asia and encouraging South Korea and Japan to acquire nuclear arsenals of their own. This section thus seeks to elucidate the value of the extended deterrence mission and the dangers of rapid regional proliferation.
An extensive literature has developed around the role of extended deterrence on nonproliferation efforts. Of course, several factors have contributed to the United States’ immense success at restricting the spread of nuclear weapons. For example, Nicholas Miller makes a compelling case that the threat of sanctions has significantly restricted the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. American extended deterrence has also played a significant role in containing the spread of nuclear weapons. Specifically, the credibility of American pledges to use nuclear weapons in the defense of allies has proven a crucial factor in constraining allies considering nuclear proliferation. From Konrad Adenauer’s Germany to Park Chung-hee’s South Korea, American extended deterrence has been the lynchpin of an effective non-proliferation regime. This analysis is also supported by extensive quantitative analysis. Using multivariate hazard models, Bleek and Lorber find that “Security guarantees are statistically significant and negative for… proliferation; we can be highly confident that states receiving security guarantees are less likely to explore, pursue, and acquire nuclear weapons.” Furthermore, work done by Vipin Narang suggests that even when states do choose to pursue nuclear weapons acquisition, a credible security guarantee from a nuclear patron state will lead proliferating states to hold off on nuclear weapons production. Instead of fully developing nuclear arsenals, these states use the threat of proliferation to pressure patron states into intervening on their behalf. What’s interesting, however, is that the United States has been able to signal a credible commitment to extended deterrence through the deployment of conventional, not nuclear, forces. This supports this report’s conclusion that a shift in investment from the triad back into conventional force power represents the optimal strategy for military spending.
Ensuring that rapid proliferation does not occur is a crucial component of American foreign policy for a number of reasons. First, nascent nuclear programs tend to lack the requisite protocols and safeguards that more developed nuclear states have developed over time. Thus, every time a new nuclear state emerges, the odds of a catastrophic accident occurring rise significantly. This concerning dynamic would only be magnified by a number of states proliferating in quick succession, as incipient nuclear states would not only need to develop procedures governing their own arsenals but would also need to determine their nuclear posture vis-à-vis other proliferating states. As Matthew Kroenig argues, mutually assured destruction (MAD) would be insufficient to prevent war between new nuclear states because “As states escalate a nuclear crisis there is an increasing probability that the conflict will spiral out of control and result in an inadvertent… nuclear exchange.” Thus, Kroenig argues, “As long as the benefit of winning the crisis is greater than the incremental increase in the risk of nuclear war, threats to escalate nuclear crises are inherently credible.” In other words, there must be some risk of nuclear use for deterrence to be effective. Obviously no country wants to initiate a suicidal nuclear war, but they must design their deterrent posture in such a way as to allow for a risk of war. Otherwise, their threat to escalate wouldn’t be credible, rendering their nuclear arsenal irrelevant. Finally, it’s important to remember that even if nuclear proliferation entails few new risks, it is still deleterious to U.S. foreign policy because it constrains the United States. It is much more difficult to intervene against nuclear-armed states, as they are able to generate immense costs even if conventionally they represent only a small threat to American interests. This is the reason, for example, that the U.S. has intervened against Iraq but not North Korea. In terms of conventional capabilities, both are far weaker than the United States. North Korea, however, possesses the ability to target U.S. allies’ major metropolitan areas with nuclear weapons. Therefore, as long as the U.S. seeks to maintain its hegemonic status and ability to deploy the full weight of its military in order to realize foreign policy goals, it should continue to work toward preventing further nuclear proliferation. If maintaining a policy of extended deterrence is important in containing the spread of nuclear weapons, it is imperative that the U.S. continues to offer nuclear security guarantees to its allies in order to limit the dangers of further proliferation.
The United States faces a number of important decisions in the near future. With an upcoming presidential election, it is essential that American policymakers consider innovative ways to maintain America’s nuclear deterrence while simultaneously refining U.S. nuclear policy to better match current threats and budget pressures. This report has offered a number of key suggestions to improve the American nuclear arsenal and posture. First, it recommends the elimination of the ICBM leg of the triad and the reinvestment of ICBM funds into conventional capabilities as well as other non-military spending deemed crucial by the federal government. Second, the United States should begin to transition to a NFU posture in order to enhance crisis stability and decrease the risk of nuclear accidents leading to devastating consequences. However, the United States should gradually phase in its NFU policy, ensuring that allies have time to prepare for such a significant shift in U.S. nuclear posture. Third, the United States should continue to maintain its launch under attack capabilities and guarantee allies’ security through extended deterrence. Of course, there are powerful and valid criticisms against all of these recommendations, but this report judges that the vast preponderance of evidence suggests this set of policies to be the best path forward for the United States.
Avery, Paul C. “Who’s Afraid of the Bomb? The Role of Nuclear Non–Use Norms in Confrontations between Nuclear and Non–Nuclear Opponents.” Security Studies 24(4) (October 2015): 563-596.
Ball, Desmond. Politics and Force Levels: The Strategic Missile Programs of the Kennedy Administration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980. Print. pp. 41–53.
Caston, Lauren et al. The Future of the U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force. Washington D.C., RAND Corporation, 2014. pp. 108.
Cochran, Thomas B., William M. Arkin, and Milton M. Hoenig. U.S. Nuclear Forces and Capabilities, vol. 1 of Nuclear Weapons Databook. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1984. Print. pp. 15.
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Eaglen, Mackenzie. “Our Incredible Shrinking Military.” American Enterprise Institute. July 29, 2016. Web.
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Fever, Peter D. et al. “Proliferation Pessimism and Emerging Nuclear Powers.” International Security 22(2) (1997): 185-207.
Freedman, Lawrence. U.S. Intelligence and the Soviet Strategic Threat, 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 1986. Print. pp. 66–67.
Friedman, Benjamin et al. The End of Overkill. Washington D.C.: Cato Institute, 2013. Web. pp. 3.
Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1982. Print. pp. 150.
Gaspar, Miklos. “JCPOA Implementation Day Ushers in New Phase for IAEA in Iran: Director General Amano
Gavin, Francis J. Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012. Print. pp. 35–38.
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Klug, Foster and Ahn Young-joon. “U.S. B-52 bomber flies over South Korea as standoff deepens.” Military Times. January 10, 2016. Web.
Krepon, Michael. “Alliances and No First Use.” Arms Control Wonk. July 5, 2016. Web.
Krepon, Michael. “Not Just Yet for No First Use.” Arms Control Wonk.
Kroenig, Matthew. “The History of Proliferation Optimism: Does It Have A Future?” Journal of Strategic Studies 38(1-2) (2015): 98-125.
Lanoszka, Alexander. “Better to dismay allies now than to infuriate them later.” The Washington Post. April 6, 2014. Web.
Leitenberg, Milton. “Background Information on Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Primarily in the European Context).” Tactical Nuclear Weapons: European Perspectives, ed. Frank Barnaby. London: Taylor and Francis, 1978. Web. pp. 120.
Lewis, Jeffrey. “Do We Need ICBMs.” Arms Control Wonk. July 19, 2012. Web.
Lewis, Jeffrey. “Our Nuclear Procedure are Crazier Than Trump.” Foreign Policy. August 5, 2016. Web.
Lewis, Jeffrey. “Return of the Hard Mobile Launcher.” Arms Control Wonk. June 14, 2012. Web.
Mauroni, Al and David Jonas. “All Cards on the Table: First-Use of Nuclear Weapons.” War on the Rocks. July 25, 2016. Web.
Miller, Jerry. Nuclear Weapons and Aircraft Carriers: How the Bomb Saved Naval Aviation. Washington: Smithsonian, 2001. Print. pp. 90–99.
Miller, Nicholas L. “The Secret Success of Nonproliferation Sanctions.” International Organizations. 68(4) (Fall 2014): 913-944.
Narang, Vipin. Nuclear Strategy In The Modern Era. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Print.
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Paul T.V. “Self-deterrence: Nuclear Weapons and the enduring credibility challenge.” International Journal 71(1) (March 2016): 20-40.
Polmar, Norman and Robert S. Norris. The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal: A History of Weapons and Delivery Systems since 1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009. Print. pp. 13–15.
Prados, John. The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and the Soviet Strategic Force. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 1986. Print. pp. 41–50.
Proposed Outline for Presentation of SIOP-63 to the President, CCS 3105, Joint Planning March 8, 1961 (3), box 30, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1961, National Archives.
Reif, Kingston. “U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs.” Arms Control Association. June 2016. Web.
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Rogin, Josh. “Obama plans major nuclear policy changes in his final months.” The Washington Post. July 10, 2016. Web.
Roman, Peter J. Eisenhower and the Missile Gap. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995. Print. pp. 153–59.
Sagan, Scott D. The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993. Print.
Sagan, Scott Douglas. Moving Targets: Nuclear Strategy and National Security. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989. Print. pp. 14.
Shearer, Andrew. “Now’s Not the Time To Lower America’s Nuclear Guard, Mr. President.” War on the Rocks. August 8, 2016. Web.
Snyder, Glenn H. “The New Look of 1953.” Strategy, Politics and Defense Budgets. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962. Print. pp. 393–437.
Trachtenberg, Marc. A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999. Print. pp. 180–90 and 287–88.
Traynor, Ian. “Barack Obama launches doctrine for nuclear-free world.” The Guardian. April 5, 2009. Web.
“TREATY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ON MEASURES FOR THE FURTHER REDUCTION AND LIMITATION OF STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE ARMS (NEW START).” NTI. July 13, 2016. Web.
United States of America. Department of Defense. Department of Defense Annual Report for FY 1975. Washington D.C.: DoD, 1975. Print. pp. 41 and 35-38.
United States of America. General Accounting Office. Unclassified Summary Statement on the GAO Triad Project. Washington D.C.: GAO, 1992. Print.
“U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview.” NTI. September 27, 2013. Web.
Walsh, Barry D. “The Case for Long-Range Strike: 21st Century Scenarios.” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. December 31, 2008. Web.
 SSBN stands for “Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear”
 Trachtenberg, Marc. A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999. Print. pp. 180–90 and 287–88.
 Snyder, Glenn H. “The New Look of 1953.” Strategy, Politics and Defense Budgets. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962. Print. pp. 393–437.
 Miller, Jerry. Nuclear Weapons and Aircraft Carriers: How the Bomb Saved Naval Aviation. Washington: Smithsonian, 2001. Print. pp. 90–99 and Leitenberg, Milton. “Background Information on Tactical Nuclear Weapons (Primarily in the European Context).” Tactical Nuclear Weapons: European Perspectives, ed. Frank Barnaby. London: Taylor and Francis, 1978. Web. pp. 120.
 Friedman, Benjamin et al. The End of Overkill. Washington D.C.: Cato Institute, 2013. Web. pp. 3.
 Fay, Matthew. “Rationalizing McNamara’s Legacy.” War on the Rocks. August 5, 2016. Web.
 Polmar, Norman and Robert S. Norris. The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal: A History of Weapons and Delivery Systems since 1945. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2009. Print. pp. 13–15. and Roman, Peter J. Eisenhower and the Missile Gap. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995. Print. pp. 153–59.
 Freedman, Lawrence. U.S. Intelligence and the Soviet Strategic Threat, 2nd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 1986. Print. pp. 66–67 and Prados, John. The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and the Soviet Strategic Force. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 1986. Print. pp. 41–50.
 Kaplan, Fred. The Wizards of Armageddon. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1983. Print. pp. 129–54.
 Friedman, pp. 4.
 Ball, Desmond. Politics and Force Levels: The Strategic Missile Programs of the Kennedy Administration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980. Print. pp. 41–53.
 Freedman, pp. 67-80.
 Gavin, Francis J. Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012. Print. pp. 35–38.
 Friedman, pp. 5.
 Page, Jeremy and Gordon Lubold. “U.S. Bombers Fly Over Waters Claimed by China.” The Wall Street Journal. December 18, 2015. Web. and Klug, Foster and Ahn Young-joon. “U.S. B-52 bomber flies over South Korea as standoff deepens.” Military Times. January 10, 2016. Web.
 Reif, Kingston. “U.S. Reveals New Data on Nuclear Costs.” Arms Control Association. May 2016. Web.
 Reif, Kingston. “U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs.” Arms Control Association. June 2016. Web.
 Eaglen, Mackenzie. “Our Incredible Shrinking Military.” American Enterprise Institute. July 29, 2016. Web.
 United States of America. General Accounting Office. Unclassified Summary Statement on the GAO Triad Project. Washington D.C.: GAO, 1992. Print.
 Lewis, Jeffrey. “Do We Need ICBMs.” Arms Control Wonk. July 19, 2012. Web.
 Friedman, 2013.
 Walsh, Barry D. “The Case for Long-Range Strike: 21st Century Scenarios.” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. December 31, 2008. Web.
 For an example of this argument, see Hasik, James. “Why Not Mobile ICBMs?” RealClearDefense. July 20, 2016. Web.
 Caston, Lauren et al. The Future of the U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force. Washington D.C., RAND Corporation, 2014. pp. 108.
 Lewis, Jeffrey. “Return of the Hard Mobile Launcher.” Arms Control Wonk. June 14, 2012. Web.
 “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview.” NTI. September 27, 2013. Web.
 Reif, Kingston. “U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs.” Arms Control Association. June 2016. Web.
 “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview.” NTI. September 27, 2013. Web.
 Sagan, Scott Douglas. Moving Targets: Nuclear Strategy and National Security. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989. Print. pp. 14.
 Ibid., pp. 15.
 Ibid., pp. 15.
 Ibid., pp. 16.
 Ibid., pp. 18.
 Cochran, Thomas B., William M. Arkin, and Milton M. Hoenig. U.S. Nuclear Forces and Capabilities, vol. 1 of Nuclear Weapons Databook. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger, 1984. Print. pp. 15.
 Sagan (1989) pp. 20-21.
 Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1982. Print. pp. 150.
 Sagan (1989), pp. 21-22.
 Ibid., pp. 25.
 Ibid., pp. 28.
 Proposed Outline for Presentation of SIOP-63 to the President, CCS 3105, Joint Planning March 8, 1961 (3), box 30, Records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1961, National Archives.
 Sagan (1989), pp. 32.
 Ibid., pp. 37.
 Ibid., pp. 42-43.
 United States of America. Department of Defense. Department of Defense Annual Report for FY 1975. Washington D.C.: DoD, 1975. Print. pp. 41 and 35-38.
 Sagan (1989), pp. 49.
 Ibid., pp. 51-54.
 Panofsky, Wolfgang K. H. “Nuclear Insecurity.” Foreign Affairs. September/October 2007. Web.
 Traynor, Ian. “Barack Obama launches doctrine for nuclear-free world.” The Guardian. April 5, 2009. Web.
 “TREATY BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ON MEASURES FOR THE FURTHER REDUCTION AND LIMITATION OF STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE ARMS (NEW START).” NTI. July 13, 2016. Web.
 Gaspar, Miklos. “JCPOA Implementation Day Ushers in New Phase for IAEA in Iran: Director General Amano
 Rogin, Josh. “Obama plans major nuclear policy changes in his final months.” The Washington Post. July 10, 2016. Web.
 Mauroni, Al and David Jonas. “All Cards on the Table: First-Use of Nuclear Weapons.” War on the Rocks. July 25, 2016. Web.
 Shearer, Andrew. “Now’s Not the Time To Lower America’s Nuclear Guard, Mr. President.” War on the Rocks. August 8, 2016. Web.
 Colby, Elbridge. “Nuclear Weapons Aren’t Just for The Worst Case Scenario.” Foreign Policy. August 4, 2016. Web.
 Avery, Paul C. “Who’s Afraid of the Bomb? The Role of Nuclear Non–Use Norms in Confrontations between Nuclear and Non–Nuclear Opponents.” Security Studies 24(4) (October 2015): 563-596.
 Paul T.V. “Self-deterrence: Nuclear Weapons and the enduring credibility challenge.” International Journal 71(1) (March 2016): 20-40.
 Kimball, Daryl G. “TAKING FIRST-USE OF NUKES OFF THE TABLE: GOOD FOR THE UNITED STATES AND THE WORLD.” War On the Rocks. July 14, 2016. Web.
 Krepon, Michael. “Alliances and No First Use.” Arms Control Wonk. July 5, 2016. Web.
 Krepon, Michael. “Not Just Yet for No First Use.” Arms Control Wonk.
 Lewis, Jeffrey. “Our Nuclear Procedure are Crazier Than Trump.” Foreign Policy. August 5, 2016. Web.
 Sagan, Scott D. The Limits of Safety: Organizations, Accidents, and Nuclear Weapons. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993. Print.
 Mauroni and Jonas, 2016.
 Miller, Nicholas L. “The Secret Success of Nonproliferation Sanctions.” International Organizations.
68(4) (Fall 2014): 913-944.
 Lanoszka, Alexander. “Better to dismay allies now than to infuriate them later.” The Washington Post. April 6, 2014. Web.
 Narang, Vipin. Nuclear Strategy In The Modern Era. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Print.
 Lanoszka, 2014.
 Sagan, 1993.
 Fever, Peter D. et al. “Proliferation Pessimism and Emerging Nuclear Powers.” International Security 22(2) (1997): 185-207.
 Kroenig, Matthew. “The History of Proliferation Optimism: Does It Have A Future?” Journal of Strategic Studies 38(1-2) (2015): 98-125.