Moment of Opportunity, Moment of Urgency

The arrival of the new Administration brings with it the opportunity for a top-down assessment of national security strategy, including a comprehensive look at the role of nuclear weapons, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States wrote in its final report, issued Wednesday. But there is also a sense of urgency in revising and renewing US nuclear strategy since “we may be close to a tipping point” due to developments in nuclear proliferation internationally and delayed decisions on US nuclear weapons programs, the report states. Former Defense Secretary William Perry chaired the 12-member commission, and James Schlesinger, who has led the CIA, DOD, and DOE, served as vice chair. Among the commission’s major recommendations are: the US requires a nuclear stockpile that is safe, secure, reliable, and credible; US extended deterrence policy and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime are integral to US nonproliferation objectives; the US should underscore its intent to use nuclear weapons only for the protection of itself and its allies in extreme circumstances; nuclear terrorism against the US and other nations is a very serious threat, requiring a much more concerted international response; and additional stockpile reductions are possible, but should be done bilaterally with Russia—as opposed to unilaterally—and, at some point, other nuclear powers. The commission issued its interim report last December. (Commission final report)