home about


in the news links sitemap site updates






This web site is best
viewed in full screen
(1024x768) and
medium font with
Internet Explorer, Firefox or Netscape.

powered by

To subscribe to FAS's list serve, click here

Note: Federal, military and postal employees can make contributions to FAS by selecting #1152 in the CFC's national/international charity list.





Chronology Status

Note: this chronology is a "living document" that will be updated as new information comes to light.

        Last update: January 3, 2008

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Guidance

Although often seen as static and slow to change, U.S. nuclear weapons policy is actually subject to frequent updates via guidance documents that change the posture of the weapons and the doctrine that guide their use. The chronology below lists the major known nuclear weapons guidance issued by the White House and the military since the Bush administration took office in 2001.
Year Description
2008 June: STRATCOM is scheduled to complete Deterrence Operations Joint Operating Concept Version 3.0.
2007 December 18: The White House announces that the President had approved that the 2004 decision to reduce by "nearly 50 percent" the DOD nuclear weapons stockpile by 2012 would be implemented by the end of 2007. As a result, "the U.S. nuclear stockpile will be less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War." The announcement also reaffirms that "A credible deterrent remains an essential part of U.S. national security, and nuclear forces remain key to meeting emerging security challenges." (further analysis here).

August 30:
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issues Change 1 to the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (CJCSI 3110.01F) 06.

July: STRATCOM says that OPLAN 8044 Revision 05 is still in effect, but that CONPLAN 8022 has been canceled (see also Fall 2004 entry below).

May 4: Defense Secretary Robert Gates states in a letter to Senator Pete Domenici that nuclear weapons "continue to play a critical role in the defense of the United States, its Allies and friends. Their unique capabilities contribute in vital and irreplaceable ways to the ability to deter adversaries and dissuade others from pursuing nuclear capabilities on their own....The RRW program will enable the United States to sustain its extended deterrence commitments to Allies...."
2006 2006: The Secretary of Defense issues the Requirements and Planning Document, a nuclear stockpile report.

December 20: The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff publishes CJCSI 3150.04, Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Logistics Management and Nuclear Weapons Reports Under the Joint Reporting Structure.

December 16: STRATCOM designated the Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (SCC-WMD) as the "USSTRATCOM lead for WMD Interdiction mission and Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)."

December: STRATCOM published Strategic Operations Joint Operating Concept Version 2.0. The document "provides the conceptual framework needed to meet the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) requirements for deterrence activities tailored for rogue powers, terrorist networks and near-peer competitors." The central focus of the document is to outline ways to decisively influence an adversary’s decision-making calculus in order to prevent hostile actions against US vital interests. The timeframe is through 2025, and the document provides "a set of steps necessary to operationalize deterrence planning that supports the National Military Strategy (NMS) objective of 'Prevent Conflict and Surprise Attacks' and the NMS requirement to develop a wider range of options that discourage aggression and coercion. It provides the operational context and conceptual basis for further concept development, capability based assessments (CBA), integrated architectures and experimentation."
   The document does not distinguish between nuclear and non-nuclear missions, but combines both nuclear, conventional and non-kinetic capabilities under "Global Strike" means to directly influence an adversary's decision calculus by tailoring deterrence operations to specific adversaries and contexts. As such, the document focuses more than its predecessor on how to influence different kinds of adversaries.

Fall: USSTRATCOM published the first CONPLAN 8099 (Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction). The plan includes at least five annexes and an "Interdiction TAB."

October: Joint Functional Component Command Global Strike and Integration (JFCC GSI; formerly JFCC SGS) achieves full operational capability.

October 17: JCS/NSC approves retirement of ACM and plan to reduce ALCM force to 528 by 2012.

September 1:
Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (CJCSI 3110.01F) FY 2006 is published by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

June [estimated]: The President signs the Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Memorandum the identifies the required number of different nuclear warheads in the stockpile.

May 5: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signs Unified Command Plan 06. Part of the document assigns STRATCOM "unique responsibilities" in coordinating the combat of WMD:
  "(10) Serving as lead combatant commander for integrating and synchronizing DOD CbtWMD [combating weapons of mass destruction] efforts, including:

     (a) Planning, integrating and synchronizing DOD CbtWMD efforts with the efforts of other U.S. government agencies, as directed.
     (b) Integrating USSTRATCOM's global missions to support combatant command and defense agency efforts in combating WMD.
     (c) In coordination with USFJCOM [Joint Forces Command], develop and make recommendations to the chairman regarding joint force integration, exercises and training for CbtWMD.

     (d) Responsible to the chairman for identifying and assessing readiness of U.S. capabilities, adequacy of partner capabilities, and capabilities of potential adversaries.
     (e) In coordination with the chairman, advocating combating WMD capabilities of all combatant commanders.
     (f) Supporting geographic combatant commands and USSOCOM [Special Operations Command] for CbtWMD planning and execution.
     (g) Providing military representation to U.S. national and international agencies for CbtWMD matters related to U.S. and multinational campaigns, as directed.
     (h) Providing the single military point of contact for CbtWMD efforts in space."
                                              [UCP 06 excerpts are from William Arkin's Early Warning blog]

March 20: The CJCS publishes updated guidance for the "Sensitive Target Approval and Review (STAR) Process (CJCSI 3122.06B). The guidance applies to the "full spectrum" of operations including nuclear. Replaces CJCSI 3122.06A from January 10, 2003.

March: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is scheduled to issue updated Strategic Planning Guidance FY06-11.

March 16: The White House publishes the 2006 National Security Strategy. The document reaffirms the role of nuclear weapons including in general and, if necessary, in preemptive strikes against rogue states and terrorists armed with WMD:
"Safe, credible , and reliable nuclear forces continue to play a critical role. We are strengthening deterrence by developing a New Triad composed of offensive strike systems (both nuclear and improved conventional capabilities)... These capabilities will better deter some of the new threats we face, while also bolstering our security commitments to allies....If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self-defense, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack. When the consequences of an attack with WMD are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idle by as grave dangers materialize. This is the principle and logic of preemption."

February 12: The Joint Chiefs of Staff publishes the Military Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction. Surprisingly, the strategy doesn't mention Global Strike with one word, but instead describes capability-based planning and the wide spectrum of capabilities that flow from the concept. Offensive operations are defined as: Offensive operations may include kinetic (both conventional and nuclear) and/or non-kinetic options (e.g., information operations) to deter or defeat a WMD threat or subsequent use of WMD." STRATCOM's operational implementation of the WMD strategy is CONPLAN 8099 and scheduled for completion in late 2006.

February 6: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released the Quadrennial Defense Review. The review states: "For prompt global strike, capabilities will be available to attack fixed, hard and deeply buried, mobile and re-locatable targets with improved accuracy anywhere in the world promptly upon the President’s order. Nuclear weapons will be accurate, safe and reliable, and tailored to meet modern deterrence requirements."
   The QDR also elevates China to the top of the scale for large military threats: "Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time off set traditional U.S. military advantages absent U.S. counter strategies."
   The QDR revalidated the 2001 the NPR’s planning assumptions, "although conditions are trending toward−if anything−a more stressing strategic landscape, for example, with respect to North Korea, Iran and nuclear proliferation."

January 26: The STRATCOM Center for Combating WMD (SCC-WMD) achieves Initial Operational Capability (IOC) at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. The mission statement says: "The Center will integrate and synchronize DoD efforts to combat WMD in support of US government objectives. The Center will develop and maintain global situational awareness of WMD activities, advocate for combating WMD capabilities, and assist with WMD planning, while shifting emphasis from DoD-centric approaches toward interagency solutions."

Early 2006: CJCS is scheduled to publish updated Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (Joint Pub 3-12). However, this and three other Joint Pub nuclear documents are canceled instead.
2005 2005: The DOD completes a Strategic Capabilities Assessment of the 2001 NPR which concludes that "the NPR’s planning assumptions remain valid, although conditions are trending toward−if anything−a more stressing strategic landscape, for example, with respect to North Korea, Iran and nuclear proliferation."

December 2005: DID guidance instructs STRATCOM and Air Force to study the nuclear cruise missile structure and design a retirement schedule for the missiles.

November 18: Joint Functional Component Command Space and Global Strike (JFCC SGS) achieves Initial Operational Capability.

September: The Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Memorandum is published.

June: A U.S. Navy admiral says that SSBNs are currently tasked under both OPLAN 8044 and CONPLAN 8022.

March 18: Change 1 to JSCP-N FY05 (CJCSI 3110.04B) is published by the CJCS. (For structure of previous JSCP-N, go here.) This document includes guidance for OPLAN/CONPLAN planning to combat WMD.

March 1:
President Bush signs Unified Command Plan 2004. The plans assigns to STRATCOM the mission of coordinating the Pentagon’s efforts to combating Weapons of Mass Destruction. In response, STRATCOM begins development of Concept Plan (CONPLAN) 8099.

February 2: JCS Chairman General Myers signs the Warning Order for STRATCOM's new mission to coordinate DOD's combat of weapons of mass destruction.

January 6: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signs a memorandum that tasks STRATCOM to spearhead the Pentagon's efforts against weapons of mass destruction. "I assign CDRUSSTRATCOM as the lead combatant commander for integrating and synchronizing DoD in combating WMD."

January 10: CJCS issues Global Strike Joint Integrating Concept, Version 1.
2004 December 31: CJCS issues the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan Nuclear Supplement (JSCP-N) for FY05 (CJCSI 3110.04B).

CJCS publishes "Strategic Deterrence Joint Operating Concept."

Fall: CONPLAN 8022 is withdrawn by STRATCOM commander General Cartwright.

October 1: OPLAN 8044 Revision 05 becomes effective. According to the Pentagon, this was a "major revamping" of the U.S. strategic war plan which, among other issues, included the "integration of conventional strike options into [the] OPLAN." Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers further explained, "STRATCOM has revised our strategic deterrence and response plan that became effective in the fall of 2004. This revised, detailed plan provides more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies."

August 17: STRATCOM publishes Global Strike Interim Capability Operations Order (OPORD).

July 8: STRATCOM commander General E. Cartwright informs Congress that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "just signed the Interim Global Strike Alert Order, which provides the President a prompt, global strike capability." The Alert Order directs the Air Force and Navy to put CONPLAN 8022 into effect on selected strike platforms including long-range bombers and strategic submarines.

July 6:
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an updated Guidance for the Sanitation and Distribution of SIOP Information to SACEUR, United Kingdom Liaison Cell; Director, Strategic Weapon Systems; and United Kingdom Strategic Targeting Center (CJCSI 3231.04C).
   The directive removes the former requirement to restrict SIOP (now OPLAN 8044) targeting information east of 73 degrees East longitude. It also identifies the personnel and operating locations that are authorized to receive OPLAN 8044 information: SACEUR; non-US SHAPE personnel; United Kingdom Liaison Cell (UKLC) personnel at STRATCOM; the Director of Strategic Weapon System at Bath in the United Kingdom; and the United Kingdom Strategic Targeting Center (UKSTC) at the Ministry of Defence in London.

June 30:
The Chairman Joint Chief of Staff signs the Global Strike ALERTORD (Alert Order). The document orders STRATCOM to activate CONPLAN 8022 to provide the President with a day-to-day preemptive strike option. The classified order contains in excess of 23 paragraphs. In response, preparation of a Global Strike OPORDER (Operations Order) is begun to implement the Alert Order pending completion of the CONPLAN.

Summer: President George W. Bush signs a Presidential Decision Directive that orders STRATCOM to "extend Global Strike to counter all HDBTs [Hard and Deeply Buried Targets] to include both tactical and strategic adversarial targets."

June: The new Stockpile Plan is announced by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

May: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 35, "Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization," which authorizes deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

May: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 34, "Fiscal Year 2004-2012 Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Plan," which "directs a force structure through 2012" and cuts the total stockpile "almost in half."

May 24: Air Combat Command publishes Global Strike CONOPS.

April 19: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues NUWEP (Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy). The document states in part: "U.S. nuclear forces must be capable of, and be seen to be capable of, destroying those critical war-making and war-supporting assets and capabilities that a potential enemy leadership values most and that it would rely on to achieve its own objectives in a post-war world."

March 15: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues Strategic Planning Guidance, Fiscal Years 2006-2011.

March 13: CJCS issues National Military Strategy of the United States, including the classified Annex B (Nuclear).

February: CJCS issues "Strategic Deterrence Joint Operating Concept."

2004: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues Defense Planning Guidance, 2004-2009.
2003 November: The first CONPLAN (Concept Plan) 8022 (Global Strike) is completed by STRATCOM.

August: The Bush administration completes a Nuclear Posture Review, the second since taking office in 2001. The Review acknowledges that nuclear forces have a reduced but still essential role in U.S. national security. It calls for a transformation of the nuclear weapons stockpile and production complex through replacement of part of or all existing nuclear weapons types with so-called Reliable Replacement Warheads.

June: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 28, "United States Nuclear Weapons Command and Control, Safety, and Security." The guidance "provides direction on various nuclear issues, to include security."

June 4: STRATCOM issues CONPLAN 8022-02, Strategic Concept draft.

April: STRATCOM issues CONPLAN (Concept Plan) 8022-01, Strategic Concept.

March: Undersecretary of Defense (Policy),
Douglas Feith, signs the "Nuclear Posture Review: Implementation Plan, DOD Implementation of the December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review Report to Congress."

March 1: Operations Plan 8044 Revision 03 enters into effect, the first to use the new name OPLAN 8044 instead of the Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP) used since 1961 (for name change, see here).
   The new name reflects major changes made to the strategic nuclear war plan since the end of the Cold War, and that "USSTRATCOM is changing the nation's nuclear war plan from a single, large, integrated plan to a family of plans applicable in a wider range of scenarios."
   Revision 03 is a transitional step toward the New Triad and future war plans. Notable changes include new executable scenario driven strike options against regional states (North Korea, Libya and Iran), changing the attack structure to increase strike execution flexibility, and more streamlined National Target Base and options.
Implementation of SIOP 03 necessitated "grooming" of weapons to optimize performance and improve confidence of mission success.

January 10: The CJCS publishes updated guidance for the "Sensitive Target Approval and Review (STAR) Process (CJCSI 3122.06A). The guidance applies to the "full spectrum" of operations including nuclear. Replaces CJCSI 3122.06 from September 3, 2002.

January 10:
President Bush signs Change 2 to the Unified Command Plan (UCP), which assigns four emerging missions to STRATCOM: missile defense, global strike, information operations, and global C4ISR. The directive identifies global strike as "a capability to deliver rapid, extended range, precision kinetic (nuclear and conventional) and non-kinetic (elements of space and information operations) effects in support of theater and national objectives."
2002 December 16: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 23, "National Policy on Ballistic Missile Defense."

December 10:
White House issues "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction," the unclassified version of National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 17. The wording in NSPD 17 of using "potentially nuclear weapons" is replaced with "all of our options."

October 1:
STRATCOM and SPACECOM stand down and are merged into a "new" STRATCOM, which STRATCOM subsequently described as "
a truly global command with worldwide responsibilities for a new strategic environment." STRATCOM further explained: "Just as adaptive nuclear planning was a recognized command strength of the last decade, flexibility in meeting global space, land, and sea challenges with a wide range of options will facilitate transformation of strategic deterrence and war fighting to meet and defeat new and ever changing strategic challenges."

October 1:
The updated Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP) 03 enters into effect. This is the last strategic war plan to use the SIOP name. (for name change, see here)

October 1: CJCS issues Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan FY 2002 (CJCSI 3110.01E), which includes a nuclear supplement (CJCSI 3110.04B). (see the structure of CJCSI 3110.04B)

September 17:
White House issues the National Security Strategy of the United States. The document publicly formulates a more proactive preemption doctrine:
   "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends....The greater the threat, the greater the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of our enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively....To support preemptive actions, we will…continue to transform out military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results."

September 14:
White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 17, "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction" (NSPD 17/HSPD 4). The document states:
   "The United States will make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including potentially nuclear weapons – to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies."
   "Nuclear forces alone…cannot ensure deterrence against [weapons of mass destruction] and missiles. Complementing nuclear forces with an appropriate mix of conventional response and defense capabilities, coupled with effective intelligence, surveillance, interdiction and domestic law-enforcement capabilities, reinforces our overall deterrence posture against [weapons of mass destruction] threats."
   A top-secret appendix to NSPD 17 specifically names Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya among the countries that are the central focus of the new U.S. strategy. A senior administration official briefing reporters on the new strategy, says the options include nuclear weapons. The motivation for the new strategy, according to one participant in the interagency process that drafted it, was the conclusion that
"traditional nonproliferation has failed, and now we’re going into active interdiction."
   The Joint Chiefs of Staff further explains that NSPD 17 "outlines a comprehensive approach to counter nuclear and other WMD. The strategy has three principal pillars:
   (1) Counterproliferation to Combat WMD Use – recognizing that the possession and increased likelihood of WMD use by hostile states and terrorists are realities of the contemporary security environment.
   (2) Strengthened Nonproliferation to Combat WMD Proliferation – determined to undertake every effort to prevent states and terrorists from acquiring WMD and missiles.
   (3) Consequence Management to Respond to WMD Use – to reduce to the extent possible the potentially horrific consequences of WMD use at home and abroad."

September 3:
The CJCS publishes guidance for the Sensitive Target Approval and Review (STAR) process (CJCSI 3122.06). The guidance establishes a formal process for determining sensitive targets where the physical damage and collateral effects on non-combatant persons, property, and environments "occurring incidental to military operations exceed established national-level notification thresholds." Sensitive targets do not need to be collateral damage related but may also include those targets which exceed national-level rules of engagement, or where the combatant commander determines the target may have adverse political ramifications.
   STAR governs two types of planning: deliberate planning for CJCS-directed contingency plans or standing combatant command operation plans in concept format (CONPLANs) and operation plans (OPLANs); crisis operations planning such as Global Strike missions. STAR applies to the "full spectrum" of operations including nuclear.

August 29:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signs NUWEP Transitional Guidance that directs changes to the Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy (NUWEP).

June 28:
White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 14, "Nuclear Weapons Planning Guidance." The directive lays out Presidential nuclear weapons planning guidance and provides broad overarching directions to the agencies and commands for nuclear weapon planning. The directive triggered changes to the NUWEP and creation of OPLAN 8044 Revision 03.

June 28:
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues 2002 Contingency Planning Guidance.

June 4:
CJCS signs JSCP Transitional Guidance that directs changes to the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan.

May 3:
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues Defense Planning Guidance. The new DPG calls for better American capability to strike "hardened and deeply buried targets" in three rogue nations simultaneously. This includes building up special operations capabilities, cyber-warfare, as well as accelerating the development of a "survivable" earth penetrator fitted with an existing nuclear warhead.

President George W. Bush "directs the Secretary of Defense to develop the capability to hold all potential adversarial targets at risk, as an integral part of the nation's policy of deterrence."

January 8: The Nuclear Posture Review is officially published.
2001 December 31: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld forwards the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report to Congress. Among specifying conditions and capabilities for the future U.S. nuclear posture, the NPR also includes excerpts from other planning documents: FY04 Defense Planning Guidance and FY03-07 Future Years Defense Plan.
   The FY04 DPG [Defense Planning Guidance] will provide guidance to coordinate and deconflict requirements for nuclear and non nuclear systems." The "initiatives reflected in the proposed FY03-07 Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) include:
   (1) Mobile and Relocatable Targets. DoD proposed to develop a systems-level approach, applied across the Services, for holding at risk critical mobile targets.
   (2) Defeating Hard and Deeply-Buried Targets. DoD would implement a program to improve significantly the means to locate, identify, characterize, and target adversarial hard and deeply buried targets.
   (3) Long Range Strike. DoD will pursue a systems level approach to defeat critical fixed and mobile targets at varying ranges, in all terrain and weather conditions, and in denied areas.
   (4) Guided Missile Submarines (SSGNs). DoD has proposed to fund the conversion of four SSBNs, withdrawn from the strategic nuclear service, to SSGN configuration.
   (4) Precision Strike. Effort to increase the number of targets than can be attacked on a single mission. Elements include a 'Multifunction Information Distribution System' to provide 'a jam-resistant, secure, digital network for exchange of critical information for strike capabilities,' a 'Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile,' A 'Small Diameter Bomb,' and the 'Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle.'
   (5) A New Strike System. "DoD will begin in FY03 to explore concepts for a new strike system that might arm the converted SSGNs. Desired capabilities for this new strike weapon include timely arrival on target, precision, and the ability to be retargeted rapidly."

October 1: The updated Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP) 02 enters into effect.

September 30: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report.

May: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld publishes the Strategic Defense Review (SDR). This document, among other things, sets "requirements for the number and types of weapons in the stockpile."

January: U.S. Strategic Command publishes OPLAN 8044-98 (SIOP).

© Hans M. Kristensen/Federation of American Scientists | www.nukestrat.com | 2004-2008

background information:

» Hans M. Kristensen, Global Strike: A Chronology of the Pentagon's New Offensive Strike Plan, Federation of American Scientists, March 15, 2006. [2 MB]

» Hans M. Kristensen, The Matrix of Deterrence, Nautilus Institute, 2001.

Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view


  © Hans M. Kristensen