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Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism (2023)

Chapter: Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×

C

U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism

Presidential strategy, decisions, and policy related to nuclear war and nuclear terrorism translate into operational actions and program executions in federal agencies through doctrines, guidelines, and directives. Programs within, and sometimes across, the federal agencies focus on those aspects of the missions that are components of the national strategy. Unclassified details on the organization for managing national strategy related to nuclear war and nuclear terrorism are included, if available.

THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL

Federal statutes and administration practices, supplemented by congressional oversight, largely define the organizations that U.S. presidents use to guide their decisions and implement policy on a range of topics. Established by the National Security Act of 1947, the National Security Council (NSC) has played a crucial role in advising the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security, so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security.

The NSC is led by the National Security Advisor, and its membership includes the U.S. Vice President, members of the President’s Cabinet, and heads of other agencies. NSC staff manage the flow of information among the president and the relevant federal agencies, including policy recommendations, strategy, and decisions. The details of the organization and the size of the NSC differ among

Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×

administrations, but a general hierarchical structure has been maintained over recent administrations (Auserwald 2017). Figure C-1 shows this general structure: the NSC, the Principals Committee (including cabinet members), the Deputies Committee (including cabinet members’ deputies), and interagency policy committees1 (IPCs) (including representatives from relevant federal agencies). Interagency coordination for developing strategy across agencies, as well as implementing policy and decisions, is managed by the IPCs, which are usually organized by region and functional policy topics.

One notable change to the national strategic policy development and implementation was the creation of a Homeland Security Council.2 Approaches toward this council have varied by administration: the Obama administration combined the NSC and Homeland Security Council into a National Security Staff, and the Trump administration retained both separately but declared the NSC to have authority over both (Bellinger 2021; McInnis and Rollins 2018). Details on Biden’s Homeland Security Council have not been announced at the time of this writing.

Image
FIGURE C-1 The general organizational structure of the National Security Council.
SOURCE: Joint Special Operations University, 2020, Special Operations Forces Interagency Reference Guide, Fourth Edition, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, FL: The JSOU Press, April.

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1 The Obama and Biden administrations have used the term “interagency policy committees,” while the G.W. Bush and Trump administrations used “policy coordination committees.”

2 Created by George W. Bush in Executive Order 13228.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×

TABLE C-1 Presidential Memoranda Defining Structure and Details for the National Security Council

Administration Presidential Memoranda
G.W. Bush National Security Presidential Directive – 1 (Bush 2001)
Obama Presidential Policy Directive – 1 (Obama 2009)
Trump National Security Presidential Memorandum – 4 (Trump 2017)
Biden National Security Memorandum – 2 (Biden 2021b)
National Security Study Memoranda (Biden 2021a)

PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDA, DIRECTIVES, AND STRATEGY DOCUMENTS

Presidential policy memoranda can further define and clarify strategy and policy work within the NSC. For example, recent administrations have each issued memoranda defining their NSC structure and details early in their terms (Table C-1). Presidential memoranda on specific topics are issued throughout a presidency and can clarify the roles and responsibilities of the federal agencies involved in a particular policy. Some memoranda are classified.

Acting through the NSC, the president may issue strategic planning documents that drive additional strategies developed by agency leadership, which in turn are developed into operational plans by relevant offices and entities within the agencies.

STRATEGY AND POLICY IMPLEMENTATION: NUCLEAR WAR

Presidential directives define the fundamental role of deterrence strategy, nuclear weapons, and basic employment strategy for the relevant federal agencies, while the National Security Strategy documents offer other guidance. Within the U.S. government, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) share responsibility for maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrence capability. DoD is responsible for ensuring the ability to deliver nuclear weapons, including securely storing fielded weapons, while the NNSA is responsible for designing, surveilling, refurbishing, and dismantling nuclear bombs and warheads. Within DoD, the U.S. Strategic Command manages the operational plans for nuclear employment. The U.S. European Command, which also has responsibility for the day-to-day management of nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, is not part of the U.S. Strategic Command.

To develop their plans, the U.S. Strategic Command relies on guidance from the secretary of defense, who amplifies and implements presidential directives for DoD (U.S. Strategic Command 2020). Documents such as the Nuclear Posture Review (OSD 2018) and National Military Strategy outline broad policy issues. Documents

Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×

such as the Nuclear Weapons Employment Planning and Posture Guidance, and the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan further expand on the high-level guidance with more detailed direction and specific objectives.

The directors of the three Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons laboratories—Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories—are required to complete annual assessments of the safety, reliability, and performance of each weapon type in the nuclear weapons stockpile. In addition, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command provides an assessment of the military effectiveness of the stockpile. These assessments also include a determination as to whether it is necessary to conduct an underground nuclear test to resolve any identified issues. The secretaries of energy and defense are required to submit these reports unaltered to the President, along with any conclusions the secretaries consider appropriate. The letters are an important component of U.S. nuclear deterrence (U.S. House of Representatives 2007).

STRATEGY AND POLICY IMPLEMENTATION: NUCLEAR TERRORISM

Similarly, national strategies for countering nuclear terrorism are developed by the President through the NSC process and are implemented through additional directives and work by the IPCs. Additionally, the President, through NSC staff, oversees federal agency planning, and it is the President who will make the required decisions to activate those plans (JSOU Strategic Studies Department 2013). As noted earlier, interagency coordination is managed by NSC staff and the IPCs, which have important roles of conducting analysis; preparing assessments, strategy drafts, policy options, and courses of action; crafting recommendations; and monitoring the implementation of presidential decisions within their areas of responsibility (JSOU Strategic Studies Department 2013).

AGENCIES INVOLVED IN IMPLEMENTING NUCLEAR COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGY

Nuclear counterterrorism strategy requires an all-of-government approach. Multiple agencies are involved in implementing the U.S. strategy, as outlined below.

Department of Defense

Since 2016, the Secretary of Defense has tasked the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to coordinate DoD’s missions to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This shift away from leadership by the U.S. Strategic Commission Command, which focuses on deterrence, to a USSOCOM-led effort

Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×

recognizes the latter’s more appropriate tools and “activist posture” for nonstate actor threats (Holgate 2018). USSOCOM will prepare The Global Campaign Plan for the War on Terror based on strategic documents derived from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s The National Military Strategy, which was itself derived from the Secretary of Defense’s National Defense Strategy, and with input from each geographic combatant commander.

Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration

DOE, through the semiautonomous NNSA, conducts and manages many of its counterproliferation and counterterrorism activities through two main offices: the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) and the Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation (CTCP). DNN has a global mission to prevent terrorists, as well as other countries, from developing nuclear weapons or acquiring weapons-usable material. CTCP works to counter threats of nuclear or radiological material out of regulatory control, a nuclear weapon (out of the owner-state’s control), or an improvised nuclear device. Both NNSA offices, as well as other agencies, conduct work countering nuclear terrorism that is managed by and performed at the DOE national laboratories and other industrial facilities.

Department of Homeland Security

The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leads the department’s efforts to protect the United States from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and health security threats, and in these efforts coordinates with domestic and international partners. CWMD has a mandated role to create and update the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, which describes a variety of nuclear detection devices and their locations, to help in monitoring for nuclear material or weapons outside of regulatory control. DHS’s work on nuclear terrorism risk assessments is shared between DHS Science and Technology, CWMD, and Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Security Agency directorates.

Department of State

The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) leads work by the Department of State on nuclear security and on treaties related to nuclear security. ISN conducts a range of nuclear security activities, including training and interagency coordination of bilateral and multilateral nonproliferation dialogues. In addition, the Bureau of International Organization Affairs interacts with the

Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×

International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations on issues related to nuclear security (Holgate 2018).

Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

The U.S. government response to any terrorist-related nuclear activity that may take place on U.S. territory would be led by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and, through its trained specialists, would provide critical nuclear forensics capacity for use in domestic criminal investigations. Within the FBI, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate interfaces and coordinates globally through Interpol. The FBI also exercises a counter-WMD role with countermeasures before an event, and response planning and exercises postevent.

Intelligence Community

Within the Directorate of National Intelligence, the national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, the National Counterproliferation Center, and the National Counterterrorism Center are directly involved with nuclear security issues. In addition, the Weapons and Counterproliferation Mission Center, within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), provides intelligence information and analysis to those involved in relevant programs and policies. Other intelligence agencies have specific nuclear security expertise as it pertains to those missions. In the Biden administration, the director of national intelligence and the director of the CIA participate in the president’s NSC meetings in an advisory capacity (Biden 2021b).

DOE’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence plays a unique role in the intelligence community because of the unique nuclear expertise resident in the DOE laboratories (e.g., assessing Iran’s capability and timeframes to develop nuclear weapons).

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has, under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, regulatory authority over spent nuclear fuel, radioisotopes, and certain special nuclear material that could be used in a nuclear terrorism event. The NRC has established security regulations for protection of nuclear material and works with industry partners to ensure compliance. The NRC also has oversight over nuclear power and conducts security evaluations. It works with industry to promote safety/security culture and resilience, reduce sabotage risks, and minimize consequences of incidents.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×
Page 138
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×
Page 139
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×
Page 140
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×
Page 141
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×
Page 142
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: U.S. Policy-Making Structure for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26609.
×
Page 143
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The assessment of risk is complex and often controversial. It is derived from the existence of a hazard, and it is characterized by the uncertainty of possible undesirable events and their outcomes. Few outcomes are as undesirable as nuclear war and nuclear terrorism. Over the decades, much has been written about particular situations, policies, and weapons that might affect the risks of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism. The nature of the concerns and the risk analysis methods used to evaluate them have evolved considerably over time.

At the request of the Department of Defense, Risk Analysis Methods for Nuclear War and Nuclear Terrorism discusses risks, explores the risk assessment literature, highlights the strengths and weaknesses of risk assessment approaches, and discusses some publicly available assumptions that underpin U.S. security strategies, all in the context of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism.

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