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Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, December 1995

The JCS published an updated version of Joint Pub 3-12 in December 1995 seven months after the indefinite extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May 1995. Like in the case of its predecessor, STRATCOM was the lead agent. The new Joint Pub 3-12 was a more complete document that the 1993 version, however, describing the role of nuclear deterrence and force posture and deployment considerations in much greater details.

Joint Doctrine

Joint Pub 3-12, 1993
Joint Pub 3-12, 1995
Joint Pub 3-12.1, 1996
Joint Pub 3-12, 2005

The background for the document was the completion of the Clinton administration's Nuclear Posture Review in September 1994, which reaffirmed the importance of nuclear weapons and maintained a Cold War-type triad of nuclear warheads on submarines, land-based missiles, and bombers.

Joint Pub 3-12 cemented the expanded role of nuclear deterrence beyond Russia and China to "rogue" states, and beyond nuclear to also deter other forms of WMD. But although the doctrine was published after the 1995 Congressional ban on low-yield nuclear weapons development (the so-called PLYWD legislation), the updated Joint Pub 3-12 repeated the need for such weapons as a useful tool in regional conflicts.

The expanded role of nuclear deterrence beyond nuclear to also cover non-nuclear opponents armed with chemical or biological (or just ballistic missiles) had real implications for the NPT. The indefinite extension of the treaty was secured partially because the U.S. (together with the other five original nuclear powers) pledged not to use nuclear weapons to threaten or attack non-nuclear states party to (and in compliance with) the NPT. Yet since the NPT only regulates nuclear but not other forms of WMD, the expanded U.S. nuclear deterrence meant that a non-nuclear NPT country could potentially find itself a target for U.S. nuclear weapons threat or use if it possessed chemical or biological weapons. This conflict remains unresolved and an irritant to the NPT regime.

October 19, 2005

The 1995 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations has been removed from the Pentagon's web site. The removal follows critique of the 2005 revision. Also removed was the 1996 Doctrine for Joint Theater Nuclear Operations.

As with its predecessor, the updated Joint Pubs 3-12 brought official nuclear doctrine up to the realities of nuclear planning as it occurred at the time. The key nuclear planning documents that formed the basis for the new Joint Pub 3-12 included the NUWEP ("Guidance for the Employment of Nuclear Weapons") from November 1992, the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan - Annex C (Nuclear), the National Military Strategy Document - Annex B (Nuclear) from 1995, and the SIOP (in December 1995 the SIOP-96).

As a result of the increased focus on regional military operations and nuclear deterrence of "rogue" states armed with WMD, the 1995 Joint Pub 3-12 addressed mainly strategic nuclear operations. It did include descriptions of theater nuclear operations, but mainly from a strategic context, and threats from terrorists were only addresses in the context of securing nuclear weapons against theft. These issues, targeting "rogue" states and terrorists, were addressed more in-depth in a separate document: Doctrine for Joint Theater Nuclear Operations (Joint Pub 3-12.1).


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, December 15, 1995. [0.34 MB]

background articles:

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