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Nuclear Posture Review Addresses Reality of Current Threats, DoD Official Says

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The recently released Nuclear Posture Review is grounded in a “realistic assessment” of the current security environment, and tailored to deter threats and reassure allies, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy David J. Trachtenberg said here yesterday.

In a discussion at the Brookings Institution, Trachtenberg outlined the four key goals of the review, which was released Feb. 2: deterring nuclear and nonnuclear attack, assuring allies and partners, achieving U.S. objectives should deterrence fail, and hedging against an uncertain future.

“The 2018 NPR addresses the reality that while the Cold War has been over for decades, a much more challenging nuclear threat environment has developed since the previous 2010 nuclear posture review,” he explained.

The goal of recommendations contained in the 2018 NPR is to “deter war, not to fight one,” Trachtenberg said.

The Defense Department conducted the review along with the departments of State and Energy, in consultation with allies and experts from inside and outside the government, he explained.


The NPR emphasizes that U.S. nuclear policy will continue to contribute to U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals, he said, adding that those roles are consistent with past priorities of U.S. nuclear policy.

Recognizes Need for Nuclear Triad

“The new NPR recognizes the need for the nuclear triad,” he said, explaining it sustains the previous administration’s plan for modernizing the aging U.S. nuclear triad of land-based, sea-based, and air delivery platforms, as well as its supporting nuclear infrastructure and command and control.

Trachtenberg pointed out the 2018 NPR, consistent with the previous NPR, declares that the United States would only consider using nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances to defend U.S. vital interests.”

He noted that the 2018 NPR recommends two nuclear programs to strengthen U.S. capabilities to deter attacks and assure allies: the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles to include a low yield option, and the pursuit of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile.

“We must recognize that effective deterrence is about tailoring our capabilities to a potential adversary’s calculations regarding the use of nuclear force to ensure that it can never appear to be a useful option,” he said.

The 2018 NPR, he said, is “grounded in a realistic assessment of the contemporary security environment – one that recognizes a return of great power competition and the increasing salience of nuclear weapons in the arsenals and doctrines of potential adversaries.”

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)

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