The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) followed a deliberate process of analyzing the current and projected security environment, determining the roles nuclear weapons play in U.S. security, formulating a strategy for fulfilling those roles, and planning a suite of capabilities that is commensurate with the strategy. Implementing the NPR will require deeper analysis in some areas, and sustained action from both DoD and DOE. DOE makes a unique contribution to the U.S. ability to hedge against uncertainty, which the new NPR elevates to an explicit role of nuclear weapons within the broader U.S. national security strategy. One element of effective hedging is sustaining a deliberate range of nuclear employment options that makes deterrence more effective and stable, thereby decreasing the likelihood of nuclear conflict and major war. Possessing the right kinds of nuclear options does this by preserving key attributes within U.S. deterrent forces as adversaries adjust and advance. To guard against the possibility that some future technological or geopolitical challenges cannot be met effectively with existing capabilities, the United States must also possess the ability to respond by adjusting its own capabilities. Successful implementation of the NPR, including its high-level hedge strategy, will better position the United States to meet deterrence challenges today and into the future.
Aaron Miles is a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, recently on assignment as Assistant Director for Nuclear and Strategic Technologies at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Prior to this assignment, he served as a senior policy advisor on nuclear deterrence in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland and a graduate certificate in National Security Studies from Texas A&M University. He has researched and written on a range of science and security topics, including deterrence policy, nuclear weapons, fusion energy, and astrophysics.