Nuclear Brief December 21, 2004 (updated September
U.S. Changes Name of Nuclear War Plan
The Pentagon has formally changed the name of
the U.S. strategic nuclear war plan SIOP (Single Integrated
Operational Plan). The new name is OPLAN (Operations Plan) 8044
The name was formally changed in February 2003 after a
naming conference held at U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM). The
last SIOP to carry that name was SIOP-03 Change 3, which entered
into effect in October 2002. The first SIOP (SIOP-62) went into effect on
April 1, 1961. The first plan to carry the new name was OPLAN
8044 Revision 03 from March 1, 2003.
Update May 17,
Butler's SIOP Nomenclature
Thirteen years after STRATCOM's first
commander in chief, General George Lee Butler,
told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he had decided
to rename the SIOP to National
Strategic Response Plans, it appears the Chiefs
have finally conceded -- sort of. In
a prepared statement for the Senate and House Armed
Services Committees, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman
General Richard B. Myers stated:
"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."
The effort to rename the SIOP is as old as
STRATCOM itself. Shortly after the command as stood up in June
1992, then STRATCOM commander General George Lee Butler began a
modernization of U.S. nuclear war planning to make it more
flexible and easier to update and change the strategic war plan.
here for an article about this modernization)
In September 1992, Butler signed a memorandum
for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that said he had
"decided to rename the SIOP." The reason was that the nuclear
war plan was more than one plan and was "involving to a
collection of far more differentiated retaliatory choices,
tailored to a threat environment of greater nuance and
complexity" (the memorandum is available in the right-hand bar).
A background paper further explained that
changes in security challenges, targets base and weapons
inventory meant that the SIOP was "evolving into a more
flexible, situation specific, ‘family of plans’ with an
increasing emphasis on adaptive planning" (the background paper
is available in the right-hand bar).
Butler decided instead to use National
Strategic Response Plans "to refer to this diverse family of
options." SIOP-03 would be the last plan with the old name. For reasons that are not clear, however, the
name was never changed and, according to STRATCOM’s FOIA office,
"there is no indication in the records why the change was never
made." (STRATCOM's FOIA letter is attached to the document in
the right-hand bar)
In January 2003, STRATCOM again asked for the name to be
changed to reflect 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." The new name should be called OPLAN 8044.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the request
the following month, but was concerned that using the same name for the "basic"
plan (OPLAN 8044) and the combat employment portion of that plan, up to that
point known as the SIOP, would be confusing. Instead, the SIOP portion of OPLAN
8044 would be called OPLAN 8044 Change FY (Fiscal Year in effect).
The first plan to carry the new name was OPLAN 8044 Revision
03, which entered into effect on March 1, 2003.
STRATCOM officials privately say that it is
too early to say whether formally changing SIOP to an OPLAN will
work in the long run. For now, however, the SIOP era has
officially come to an end.