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Nuclear Brief September 21, 2005

JCS Chairman Gen. Meyers says the revised doctrine has been changed considerably; Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he hasn't seen it.
Pentagon Top Rejects Criticism Of Doctrine

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Meyers rejected the criticism of the Pentagon's revised Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations. The doctrine was critiqued in an article in Arms Control Today and portrayed by the Washington Post as lowering the nuclear threshold by incorporating preemption into U.S. joint nuclear doctrine for the first time.

The rebuttal, which was given in response to a question during the regular Defense Department press briefing on September 20, was both poorly documented and poorly articulated. The excerpt from the briefing follows:

Q: A question for both of you gentlemen...as you've seen by published reports, apparently -- and would you bring us up to speed -- apparently, there is a draft memo making its way through the Pentagon originating somewhere in the Joint Chiefs spaces about the possible use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike against terrorists and nations that would use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. or its assets. Can you sort of bring us clear on all of that?

GEN. MYERS: There has been, back in 1995 and then again in 1996, a companion piece in our joint -- what we call our joint doctrine. There is joint doctrine that considers where nuclear weapons fit in the arsenal. That is in the process of being updated. As you might imagine, the primary piece that's being updated is this notion going from a nuclear triad that we used to know of bombers, missiles and submarines to a triad of nuclear weapons, conventional weapons and infrastructure -- being Intelligence and the Department of Energy and so forth. So this new notion of a new triad that came out, I think, in 2001 or early 2002 -- bringing our doctrine up to speed with that. The fundamentals don't change, of course. The president always retains the right to use all options at his disposal, and he's the ultimate decision authority, of course, on the use of any nuclear weapons. And that -- and that hasn't changed.

The article is based on doctrine that was out for coordination at the lieutenant colonel/colonel level. It had not been to general officer/flag officer level yet. And since, whatever piece they saw, has been modified since then. I mean, that doesn't even reflect the current addition. I have not seen it, but I got updated on it, I know where we are. So it's -- it's the business we're in in trying to explain our -- our doctrine.

Q: One quick follow-up. Mr. Secretary, is part and parcel of that the so-called nuclear bunker-buster that we believe you are in favor of?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I doubt it. I haven't seen the -- the --

GEN. MYERS: This doesn't go into specific weapons, and it --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Right. I don't think it does.

GEN. MYERS: And the one that -- and the -- I think the hint or allegation in the article was this somehow lowers the nuclear threshold, and that's not at all true. In fact, if anything, it emphasizes the role that conventional weapons, as they become more accurate, can play in helping with not only deterrence, but dealing with weapons of mass destruction. They're -- of course -- well. So that's -- it's a separate issue, the -- that is a separate issue."

Rebuttal of a Rebuttal

Contrary to Gen. Meyer's claim, however, the draft doctrine incorporates significant nuclear changes compared with the previous version. The changes are described in detail in my review of the doctrine in Arms Control Today and the analysis elsewhere on this web site.

How Close?

Gen. Meyers claims the doctrine was in an early draft and nowhere near publication. But what does the Pentagon's own publication schedules say?

Nuclear Doctrine: How Close to Publication?

Specifically, Gen. Meyers' claim that the revised doctrine "emphasizes the role that conventional weapons, as they become more accurate, can play" is incorrect. Rather, the doctrine emphasizes the role of nuclear weapons with conventional weapons described as potentially playing a future role to complement the nuclear weapons in some missions.

Moreover, Gen. Meyers does not acknowledge that nuclear preemption is in the draft doctrine, or that it will be removed in the final version.

The rebuttal reveals an administration that appears uncomfortable with publicly acknowledging core elements of its own nuclear reform. This reform is based on changes created by the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, the 2002 directive to combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, as well as STRATCOM's new Global Strike mission. Denying that new nuclear roles are being incorporated into the doctrine appears particularly silly given the emphasis the Bush administration has placed on the importance of their development.

Confirming this development, obviously, would mean saying: "yes, we're taking nuclear to a new level," which would contradict the Bush administration's claim of reducing the role of nuclear weapons. To that end it is relevant to remind of Gen. Meyers' prepared statement to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees in February 2005 about a recent update to the strategic nuclear strike plan:

"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." (emphasis added)

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

For documents about the doctrine publication schedule, click here


  Hans M. Kristensen