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Review Changes Status of Nuclear Deterrent

Review Changes Status of Nuclear Deterrent

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.

Washington D.C. -- (AFPS) January 9, 2002 -- DoD is embarked on making fundamental changes to America's nuclear deterrent, said J.D. Crouch, assistant defense secretary for international security policy.

Crouch briefed reporters Jan. 9 on the Nuclear Posture Review. This is the first review of U.S. nuclear deterrence since 1994. He told reporters the new policy cuts the number of offensive nuclear weapons while increasing the options the president will have.

In a letter to Congress, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set down the case for the changes.

"We have concluded that a strategic posture that relies solely on offensive nuclear forces is inappropriate for deterring the potential adversaries we will face in the 21st century," Rumsfeld wrote. "Terrorists or rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction will likely test America's security commitments to its allies and friends. In response, we will need a range of capabilities to assure friend and foe alike of U.S. resolve."

Crouch said the review changes the strategy from a threat-based approach to a capabilities-based approach. It recognizes that the Cold War is over and that the mutually assured destruction strategy paramount in the stand-off with the Soviet Union has no place in the new relationship between the United States and Russia.

The United States has about 6,000 warheads in its nuclear arsenal. Under the new plan, that arsenal would drop to around 3,800 warheads by fiscal 2007 and to between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed warheads by fiscal 2012.

"This means we will deploy the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with U.S. security requirements," Crouch said.

The plan would retire Peacekeeper ICBMs beginning this year. It also calls for removing four Trident submarines from strategic service. The Air Force's B-1 bomber would not be nuclear capable and, most important, the United States would remove some warheads from operationally

deployed ICBMs and submarine-launched missiles.

The new policy changes the U.S. perception of deterrence. "The Cold War approach to deterrence that was highly dependent on offensive nuclear weapons is no longer appropriate," Crouch said. Nuclear weapons are still a key part of the deterrent strategy, "but we also believe that other kinds of capabilities will be needed in the future."

These other capabilities include advanced conventional capabilities, missile defense and better command, control, intelligence and planning.

"We believed it was important to include new kinds of capabilities in this approach, including active and passive defenses and nonnuclear capabilities," Crouch said. "Nonnuclear strike forces … have the potential, if fully exploited and fully developed, to reduce our dependency on nuclear forces for the offensive strike leg of the nuclear component."

Further, the unilateral move means the reduction can take place without long, involved and complicated arms control treaties, he said.

The new policy will place greater emphasis on many arrows in the U.S. quiver. It will mean credible nuclear and non- nuclear responses to support the United States and allies.

"There may be multiple contingencies and new threats we have to deal with," Crouch said. "We're focusing on how we will have to fight, not who or when. We don't really know. We expect to be surprised, so we have to have capabilities that would deal with a broad range of the capabilities adversaries may array against us."

The U.S. Cold War nuclear "Triad" -- submarine-launched missiles, land-based ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers -- will change under the capabilities-based concept. The Cold War Triad would become a three-legged subset of a new Triad augmented by defensive systems and a responsive infrastructure.

Related Sites of Interest:

- DoD News Briefing, January 9, 2002 and slides.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).