HomeNewsSpecial Reports21st Century Nuclear Deterrence

About Deterrence

The strategic environment has changed with the expanding capability of world actors. The future environment is less predictable and demands our national deterrence strategy accounts for the nature of this uncertainty.

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The basis of strategic deterrence includes nuclear weapon-armed long-range aircraft, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarines, along with the vital communications elements the president of the United States uses to command and control these forces.

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Missile defense protects the United States, its military forces abroad and its allies and partners from the threat of a ballistic missile attack by destroying such missiles in flight before they reach their intended target.

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Rebuilding and modernizing capabilities and infrastructure is essential to the continued effectiveness and resiliency of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.


President Donald J. Trump directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to initiate a new NPR to ensure the nation's nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st century threats and reassures allies. This review is ongoing.

General Hyten Remarks on 21st Century Strategic Deterrence


President Trump directed Secretary Mattis to identify ways to strengthen missile defense capabilities, rebalance homeland and theater defense priorities, and provide the necessary policy and strategy framework for our nation's missile defense systems. This review is ongoing.

21st Century Deterrence Components

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Space & Cyber

Information Superiority

Enables the ability to be more aware, agile and effective than the enemy.

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Ballistic Missile Defense System

Active Defense Capabilities

Incorporates a variety of sensors with ground- and sea-based interceptor missiles to track, engage and destroy ballistic missiles.

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Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Ready, Reliable & Timely

Complicates adversary attack planning and provides prompt response around-the-clock.

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Command, Control

Ensuring Decision Authority

Warns national command authority of attack and links national command authority with forces in the field to preserve decision time and maintain effectiveness.

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Enhancing Nuclear Security

Ensures the nation sustains the nuclear deterrent through the application of science, technology, engineering and manufacturing.

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Bombers & DCA


The ability to forward-deploy U.S. bombers and dual-capable aircraft demonstrates U.S. intent and the severity of the crisis to allies and adversaries.

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Ballistic Missile Submarines


Assured second strike capability, even against surprise attack, thereby enabling greater flexibility in the decision-making cycle.

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Leader Quotes

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, speaks on the joint perspective at the Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 20, 2017.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U. S. Strategic Command, speaks about 21st century deterrence at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., Sept. 20, 2017.
Navy Vice Adm. Charles Richard, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, speaks about the Stratcom enterprise and its mission at the Peter Huessy Triad Conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, 2017.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conduct a news conference with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Washington, D.C., Aug. 17, 2017.
The Missile Defense Agency, in cooperation with other Defense Department elements, successfully intercepts an intercontinental ballistic missile target during a test, May 30, 2017.

Faces of Deterrence

U.S. service members and civilian personnel work daily to deter any potential enemy who considers launching a first strike against the United States or our allies.