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Information Series

Issue No. 405 May 12, 2016

Summaries of the 1994, 2001, and 2010 Nuclear Posture Reviews

Kurt Guthe

Kurt Guthe is the director of strategic studies of National Institute for Public Policy.

Since the end of the Cold War, three overall reviews of the U.S. nuclear posture have been conducted by the executive branch.  One was done in 1994 by the Clinton administration, another in 2001 by the Bush administration, and the third in 2010 by the Obama administration.  If history is any guide, the next administration will perform its own review.  Examining the results of the three previous efforts can provide useful background for the prospective fourth review.  Summaries of the past Nuclear Posture Reviews (NPRs) can be used to answer questions about the international conditions taken into account, the key problems addressed, the objectives set for the United States, and the ways and means recommended to achieve those ends.  Careful comparison among the summaries can reveal significant changes and continuities from one review to the next.  Perhaps most important, reviewing the reviews can aid thinking about what a future NPR should aim to accomplish.

This working paper offers summaries of the NPRs done to date.  Each summary is intended to present the findings of its related NPR in an accurate, if abbreviated, manner.  Quotations are frequently used to let those responsible for the reviews speak for themselves.  Short reference notes that appear in brackets give the sources for quotations.  A full list of references, virtually all of which are official sources, can be found at the end of the paper.

The summaries follow a common format to facilitate comparisons, although, aside from one parenthetical observation, no comparisons are made here.  The categories for the common format are: 1) security environment; 2) policy and strategy; 3) forces and related programs; 4) command and control; 5) safety and security; 6) defense-industrial infrastructure; and 7) arms control.

The paper originally was prepared as background information for a small group engaged in a broader study effort currently under way at the National Institute for Public Policy.  Its appearance as something between an outline and a typical paper reflects its origin.  It may be of interest to a wider audience, and thus is being issued as part of the National Institute’s Information Series.

Full text of this Information Series can be downloaded here.


The views in this Information Series are those of the authors and should not be construed as official U.S. Government policy, the official policy of the National Institute for Public Policy or any of its sponsors.  For additional information about this publication or other publications by the National Institute Press, contact:  Editor, National Institute Press, 9302 Lee Highway, Suite 750 |Fairfax, VA 22031 | (703) 293-9181 |

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