The Need for a National Debate on Nuclear Strategy

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The Need for a National Debate on Nuclear Strategy
By: Clark Murdock

The United States has neglected nuclear strategy and policy ever since the end of the Cold War, sustaining into the twenty-first century, albeit at inadequate funding levels, a much smaller nuclear force that was designed for the security challenges of the prior era. We need to restore strategic thought to nuclear policy and build a nuclear force that addresses tomorrow’s challenges, not yesterday’s.

The past several decades have witnessed several geopolitical shifts that complicate Cold War understandings of deterrence, assurance, and strategic stability. The emergence of new nuclear-armed states, the changing regional security dynamics facing U.S. friends and allies, and the continued nuclear modernization of potential adversaries all pose unprecedented challenges for U.S. strategic planners. Concepts born of Cold War–era nuclear strategy, while useful as starting points, are insufficient to meet these new challenges.

The CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) was formed in 2003 to address the decreased salience of nuclear issues among the current and next generation of policymakers. With a membership base of almost 1,200 individuals from a range of nuclear professions in a variety of countries, PONI has a ready-made pool of participants for a needed debate on nuclear strategy, policy, and posture.

As its most recent initiative, PONI plans to establish an online Nuclear Strategy Journal. The goal is to develop a publication that will serve as the genesis for reinvigorated scholarship on nuclear strategy and serve as the focal point for new debate, one that needs to take place outside of government circles to ensure a broader range of perspectives. Modeled on the Small Wars Journal, the Nuclear Strategy Journal will offer a balance between the interactivity and timeliness of a blog and the deep analysis available in formal academic work. PONI will enforce a high standard of analytic rigor and place special emphasis on innovative contributions. This new online journal will also help build the intellectual foundation needed for the next administration’s 2017–2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

Clark Murdock is senior adviser of the International Security Program at CSIS. Other posts by .


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