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Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, April 1993

The first Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (Joint Pub 3-12) was published on April 29, 1993. The context was the ending of the Cold War and the reorganization of U.S. military planning for joint operations.

Joint Doctrine

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The doctrine adopted Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) as the core terminology in defining the role of nuclear deterrence, but without discussing the implications of broadening the scope beyond nuclear to also deter other forms of WMD such as chemical and biological weapons. As such Joint Pub 3-12 "mirrored" Cold War deterrence against the Soviet Union onto the new security environment in a more regional context.

Joint Pub 3-12 coincided with the emergence of other important documents and efforts in the early 1990s which together broadened the scope of U.S. nuclear deterrence to cope with "rogue" states in response to increasing concerns over WMD proliferation (for background on this evolution, see: Hans M. Kristensen, "Nuclear Futures: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and U.S. Nuclear Strategy," British American Security Information Council (BASIC), Washington, DC, March 1998).

Much of this effort occurred at STRATCOM, which was stood up in June 1992 to provide a single voice for nuclear policy. "Mission-creep" was inevitable because STRATCOM’s efforts to formulate a credible regional nuclear deterrence against "rogue" states armed with WMD spurred new nuclear strike options and requirements for new capabilities such as low-yield nuclear weapons. Indeed, the April 1993 Joint Pub 3-12 advocated low-yield nuclear weapons as a means of making a decision to use nuclear weapons easier:

"WMD used on US forces would cause a significant tactical or operational loss; greatly change the character of the war, putting the outcome in doubt and threatening escalation; leave the United States with a difficult choice: to retaliate or not to retaliate. A selective capability of being able to use lower-yield nuclear weapons in retaliation, without destabilizing the conflict, is a useful alternative for the US National Command Authorities (NCA)."

In many ways Joint Pubs 3-12 simply caught up with the realities of nuclear planning that was well underway at the time. Even before JP 3-12 was approved, STRATCOM planners began widespread modernization of weapon systems and nuclear planning capabilities to be able to target rogue states on a global scale. As a result, the "new" doctrine JP 3-12 was based on existing key nuclear planning documents that directed detailed nuclear planning against rogue states: NUWEP (Guidance for the Employment of Nuclear Weapons) issued by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in November 1992, the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan - Annex C (Nuclear) FY 1993-1995 from 1992, the National Military Strategy Document - Annex B (Nuclear), and SIOP-93 from April 1993.

The 1993 doctrine was replaced with an updated Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations in December 1995.

© Hans M. Kristensen/Federation of American Scientists | www.nukestrat.com | 2004-2006

download documents:

» Joint Chiefs of Staff, Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, Joint Pub 3-12, April 29, 1993. [1.1 MB]
Partially declassified and released under FOIA.

background article:

» Hans M. Kristensen, "New Doctrine Falls Short of Bush Pledge to Reduce Nuclear Role," Arms Control Today, September, 2005.

» Hans M. Kristensen, "Nuclear Futures: Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and U.S. Nuclear Strategy," BASIC, March 1998.

» "Hans M. Kristensen, "Targets of Opportunity," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/ October 1997.

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  © Hans M. Kristensen