Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations

March 15, 2005


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The 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations is the current US doctrine on when and under which circumstances to use nuclear weapons.


The doctrine cites 8 reasons under which field commanders can ask for permission to use nuclear weapons:

1. An enemy using or threatening to use WMD against US, multinational, or alliance forces or civilian populations.
2. To prevent an imminent biological attack.
3. To attack enemy WMD or its deep hardened bunkers containing WMD that could be used to target US or its allies.
4. To stop potentially overwhelming conventional enemy forces.
5. To rapidly end a war on favorable US terms.
6. To make sure US and international operations are successful.
7. To show US intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter enemy from using WMDs.
8. To react to enemy-supplied WMD use by proxies against US and international forces or civilians.

Below are some quotes from the executive summary of the document..

Note: After public exposure, the Pentagon has hidden the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations and three related documents, referring to this as "cancelling" the documents.[Reference 3] 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.[Reference 4]

"The use of nuclear weapons represents a significant escalation from conventional warfare and may be provoked by some action, event, or threat. However, like any military action, the decision to use nuclear weapons is driven by the political objective sought."... "Integrating conventional and nuclear attacks will ensure the most efficient use of force and provide US leaders with a broader range of strike options to address immediate contingencies… This integration will ensure optimal targeting, minimal collateral damage, and reduce the probability of escalation." ... "Although the United States may not know with confidence what threats a state, combinations of states, or nonstate actors pose to US interests, it is possible to anticipate the capabilities an adversary might use… These capabilities require maintaining a diverse mix of conventional forces capable of high-intensity, sustained, and coordinated actions across the range of military operations; employed in concert with survivable and secure nuclear forces" ... "The immediate and prolonged effects of nuclear weapons including blast (overpressure, dynamic pressure, ground shock, and cratering), thermal radiation (fire and other material effects), and nuclear radiation (initial, residual, fallout, blackout, and electromagnetic pulse), impose physical and psychological challenges for combat forces and noncombatant populations alike. These effects also pose significant survivability requirements on military equipment, supporting civilian infrastructure resources, and host-nation/coalition assets. US forces must prepare to survive and perhaps operate in a nuclear/radiological environment."


See also

1. Nuclear strategy

2. Nuclear weapons and the United States

3. Jorge E. Hirsch

4. Seymour Hersh



1. Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations 15 March 2005

2. Pentagon Revises Nuclear Strike Plan: Strategy Includes Preemptive Use Against Banned Weapons by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Sunday, September 11, 2005

3. aPentagon Cancels Controversial Nuclear Doctrine, February 2, 2006, FAS

4. bU.S. Nuclear Weapons Guidance, last update March 16, 2006, FAS



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