HomeNewsSpecial Reports21st Century Nuclear Deterrence

About Deterrence

Deterrence is a strategy that seeks to prevent an actor from taking specific action, and has been central to keeping peace for nearly 70 years. Applying the enduring concepts of deterrence requires a continuous effort to tailor as the security environment evolves.

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NUCLEAR FORCES

A combination of flexible, diverse and resilient nuclear forces underpins effective deterrence. Intercontinental ballistic missiles on land and at sea, strategic bombers, nonstrategic nuclear forces, and a robust command and control system constitute U.S. nuclear forces.

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MISSILE DEFENSE

Missile defense protects the United States, its military forces overseas, and its allies and partners from threats posed by hostile ballistic missiles of all ranges. The comprehensive approach consists of operations to neutralize, intercept and mitigate a potential missile attack.

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MODERNIZATION

All three legs of the triad are approaching obsolescence and require modernization to ensure effective deterrence well into the 21st century. This modernization includes nonstrategic systems – dual-capable aircraft and pursuit of a sea-launched cruise missile.

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TAILORED DETERRENCE

There is no "one size fits all" deterrence strategy. This demands adapting strategies to tailor them for potential adversaries over time, and a flexible mix of forces that are effective across a range of situations.

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EXTENDED NUCLEAR DETERRENCE

The U.S. extends nuclear security guarantees to allies in Europe and Asia. This signals to adversaries the risks of threatening our allies’ vital interests. Providing security partners a reliable alternative to pursuing independent nuclear capabilities supports U.S. nonproliferation goals.

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ARMS CONTROL

Well-conceived, carefully negotiated and clearly enforceable treaties contribute to stability. The United States is open to restoring a nuclear arms control dialogue with Russia once Russia returns to full compliance with its existing treaty obligations.

In light of the realities of the contemporary threat environment, the 2018 NPR presents an assessment of US nuclear policy that is consistent with past US policy by placing priority on the need to deter potential adversaries, assure allies and partners, and hedge against future risks, while also seeking greater cooperation where possible in support of arms control and global non-proliferation efforts.

Watch Now: On Deterrence

In light of the realities of the contemporary threat environment, the 2018 NPR presents an assessment of US nuclear policy that is consistent with past US policy by placing priority on the need to deter potential adversaries, assure allies and partners, and hedge against future risks, while also seeking greater cooperation where possible in support of arms control and global non-proliferation efforts.

NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW COVER

NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW

President Donald J. Trump directed Defense Secretary James N. 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. 

General Hyten Remarks on 21st Century Strategic Deterrence


MISSILE DEFENSE REVIEW

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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DOE/NNSA Laboratories

Enhancing Nuclear Security

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

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Bombers & DCA

Flexible

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

Survivable

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, testifies on space situational awareness at a joint House subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., June 22, 2018.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten discusses what it takes to protect the United States in space at the annual John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, June 13, 2018.
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provides remarks at the North American Aerospace Defense Command's 60th anniversary ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., May 12, 2018.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Stratcom’s headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., April 6, 2018.
The undersecretary of defense for policy and other senior defense officials testify on ballistic missile defense policies and programs at a Senate Armed Services Committee strategic forces subcommittee hearing, March 22, 2018.

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.