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Nuclear Brief February 2, 2006

Pentagon Cancels Controversial Nuclear Doctrine


Pentagon cancels controversial nuclear documents

The Pentagon has formally cancelled a controversial revision of Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations after the doctrine was exposed last year in an article in Arms Control Today in September 2005 and the Washington Post. The revised draft included for the first time descriptions of preemptive use of US nuclear weapons, and caused the Senate Armed Services Committee to ask for a briefing, and 16 lawmakers to protest to President Bush.

The decision to cancel the doctrine document, and four other related documents, was confirmed today by the Pentagon. An official explained that the documents will not be published, revised, or classified. He added that they were not really doctrine documents but "pseudo documents" discussing nuclear policy issues. The public "visibility led a lot of people to question why we have them," he said.

The main document, formally known as Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (Joint Pub 3-12) was first published in 1993 and updated in 1995. A revision has been under preparation since 2001. The 1995 version, which was publicly available on a Pentagon web site for a decade, was removed in October 2005 after the public disclosure of the revision. The following month, according to the Pentagon, the decision was made to cancel the documents.

In addition to the main document, the Pentagon also cancelled three other related documents: Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Theater Operations (Joint Pub 3-12.1) from 1996, Doctrine for Nuclear Weapons Effects (Joint Pub 3-12.2) from 1995, and Doctrine for Nuclear Weapons Effects (Notional) (Joint Pub 3-12.3) from 1996.

The cancellation of the doctrine documents was discovered after they disappeared from a Joint Chiefs of Staff overview of ongoing revisions. The previous overview from April 2005 included all three documents, but they were missing from a new overview published in January 2006.

Does the cancellation mean that U.S. nuclear policy has changed? No. The decision to cancel the documents simply removes controversial documents from the public domain and from the Pentagon's internal reading list. The White House and Pentagon guidance that directs the use of nuclear weapons remains unchanged by the cancellation.

Hans M. Kristensen | www.nukestrat.com | 2004-2006

download documents:

U.S. Joint Staff, "Joint Publication Status," As of April 7, 2005. Excerpt.

U.S. Joint Staff, "Joint Publication Revision Status Tracker," As of January 9, 2006. Excerpt.

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  Hans M. Kristensen