Jeffrey LewisStrategic Posture Commission

Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chair of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, has inserted language into the FY2008 Authorization Bill creating a Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.

Congresswoman Tauscher said the Commission will “create a public discussion about future requirements for nuclear weapons.”

If the Senate, which is not expected to include similar language, recedes to the House position, the Commission will “assess the benefits and risks associated with the current strategic posture and nuclear weapons policies of the United States” and “make recommendations as to the most appropriate strategic posture and most effective nuclear weapons strategy” including:

(1) the military capabilities and force structure necessary to support the strategy, including conventional means of providing global strike capabilities;
(2) the number of nuclear weapons required to support the strategy, including the number of replacement warheads required, if any;
(3) the appropriate qualitative analysis, including force-on-force exchange modeling, to calculate the effectiveness of the strategy under various scenarios;
(4) the nuclear infrastructure (that is, the size of the nuclear complex) required to support the strategy;
(5) an assessment of the role of missile defenses in the strategy;
(6) an assessment of the role of nonproliferation programs in the strategy;
(7) the political and military implications of the strategy for the United States and its allies; and
(8) any other information or recommendations relating to the strategy (or to the strategic posture) that the commission considers appropriate.

The Congressionally-appointed commission will replace a Commission that was to examine implementation of the Nuclear Posture Review and appointed by the Secretary of Defense—something the SECDEF never got around to doing.

The Commission will have 12 members. Who would you pick?


  1. yale (History)

    Please Click the Pic :

  2. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    So, let’s be clear.

    You need a chair, vice-chair and ten panel members.

    You might also include a staff director.

    For reference, here was the Rumsfeld Ballistic Missile Commission:

    The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld, Chairman

    Dr. Barry M. Blechman

    General Lee Butler, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)

    Dr. Richard L. Garwin

    Dr. William R. Graham

    Dr. William Schneider, Jr.

    General Larry D. Welch, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)

    Dr. Paul D. Wolfowitz

    The Honorable R. James Woolsey

    Mr. Steve Cambone, Staff Director

    One could easily imagine several of these folks making a repeat appearance.

    For suggestions, one might look at the participants in the NAS Committee on International Security and Arms Control, the recent NAS study on Conventional Trident, the AAAS Study on the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

  3. Haninah (History)

    I had no idea Garwin was on the Rumsfeld Commission – as Family Guy said of Samuel L. Jackson, “He’s in everything!”

    Seriously, though, I can’t imagine a commission like this without Sam Nunn. Garwin’s a likely candidate, too. And, if the members of the Rumsfeld Commission got to pick the members of this new commission, we would expect Shaha Ali Riza to make the list, too, of course.

  4. J.

    “If the Senate, which did not include similar language, recedes to the House position”

    The Senate Armed Services Committee hasn’t begun to mark up their bill yet, so it’s too early to say that they won’t have a similar provision.

  5. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    I changed to “is not expected to include…”

    Of course, it may …

  6. Stephen Young (History)

    George Shultz and Sam Nunn or Bill Perry, for their vision in the Wall Street Journal op-ed.

    You could think about Kissinger as well, but he’d just drone on in that gravelly voice and nothing would get done.

    ps – you’re good – I was just about to email this to you, and you’re post was already up for 2 hours.

  7. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Gee, I could see rolling with Steve Fetter, Rose Gottemoeller, Raymond Jeanloz, John Holdren, Chris Chyba, Gene Habiger …

    I’d love for them to include Steinbruner, though John has scaled back his commitments lately.

  8. Amyfw (History)

    There is some support among some senators for a similar commission. You can expect the Pentagon to oppose and appeal, though.

    For commissioners, I’d go with Nunn, Perry, Frank Miller, Al Carnesale or Ash Carter, some scientiests, and for staff director, me.

  9. James O'Brien

    Alan Foley, Gen Cartwright (if he’s retired by then – Adm Ellis if he’s not), Vayl Oxford, Rummy (yes, I’m serious), Bill Richardson, Bob Walpole (if he’s retired), John Bolton, Gen Meyers, Steve Fetter, MG Gary Curtin, Stephen Younger, etc… I’m running out of names, although there are still a bunch of non-profit folks that would probably be great.

  10. Amyfw (History)

    A few more suggestions: Linton Brooks; Gen Lee Butler (former STRATCOM); Sid Drell; Michael Nacht; Elaine Bunn.

    Definately not John Bolton (lack of appropriate knowledge). Also, many of the “non-profit” folks may be seen as having too much of an agenda going in and too little real knowledge of what U.S. nuclear strategy and doctrine have been over the years (its easy to criticize, a lot harder to really understand where we have been and where we are going.)

  11. Stephen Young (History)

    The key is to break the literal deathgrip that the Pentagon’s nuclear war-fighters have on policy. Until that happens, the paradigm won’t shift and we’re stuck with thousands of warheads.

    So, Commissioners should be appointed with that in mind.

    PS – Ash Carter had his chance under Clinton.

    PPS – read the chapter on the Clinton NPR in The Nuclear Turning Point, at:

    PPS: While your at it, look at Mort Halperin’s 1996 project proposing a nuclear policy review designed to break the Pentagon’s deathgrip, at:

  12. Random

    Henry S. Rowen, Fred S. Hoffman, Fred C. Ikle, Steve Lukasik and Fred Wikner should all be considered.

  13. Random

    Alain Enthoven and James Schlesinger also ought to be considered.

  14. yale (History)

    Amyfw wrote:

    many of the “non-profit” folks may be seen as having too much of an agenda going in and too little real knowledge of what U.S. nuclear strategy and doctrine have been over the years

    One would be hard put to find “non-non-profits” or career government and military people who do not have “too much of an agenda going in”.

    Also, in my experience, many NGO’s have both broader and deeper knowledge than the people inside the loop.

    Trotting out the same people who have made their life’s work as the failures who made the mess we live in, is not a sufficient qualification for fixing the problem.

  15. Mark Gubrud

    I don’t know who will be on this commission, but I know what the allowable range of its “conclusions” will be. They’re practically written into the law, as if it were necessary:

    1. “Global strike” i.e. some way of trying to kill someone on the other side of the world with a missile launched on this one, based on some hot tip of the day, is a necessity, not a tragic mistake, as a reading of the sad history of dead children and missed targets might suggest.

    2. You can forget abolition; we need nuclear weapons into the indefinite future, it’s just a question of how many, and whether RRW is needed.

    3. And, oh yes, “force-on-force” (first-strike) is still a relevant option.

    4. Hint: the required nuclear complex size isn’t zero.

    5. Missile defense is something other than a boondoggle that should be killed (and the ABM Treaty reinstated) at the earliest opportunity.

    Coming at this time of political stalemate, this Commission can only be Bad News. If there is any chance that a new administration would take a bold new approach to these issues, the leaden findings of a panel like this can only serve to dampen the chances.

  16. Stephen Schwartz (History)

    Janne Nolan (read An Elusive Consensus), Bruce Blair, Michael May, Adm. William Crowe (ret.), William A. “Bill” Owens (ret.)

  17. Enoch

    The key is to break the literal deathgrip that the Pentagon’s nuclear war-fighters have on policy.

    Yes… heaven forbid the military might have any influence on the answers to questions 1 through 5.

    Why would you want a Pentagon opinion on military capabilities and force structure; number of nuclear weapons required to support national strategy; force-on-force exchange modeling; required nuclear infrastructure; or the role of missile defenses? The mind boggles…

  18. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    I would actually say that the nuclear weapons bureaucracy—with many, many civilians—has the death grip on policy, rather the military.

    Most of the STRATCOM Commanders, for instance, seem to come to the conclusion that nuclear weapons aren’t really very useful.

  19. Mark Gubrud

    We can call them the Doomsday Dozen.

  20. Whoa

    In this discussion, one ought to distinguish between the usefulness of nuclear weapons, and their usability.

    Are U.S. nuclear forces usable? On the one hand, fer sher they are more “usable” today, in the sense that the accuracy with which Uncle Sam can deliver them is much improved over, say, U.S. capabilities during the days of the Eisenhower Administration—a tenfold increase in accuracy is generally, roughly similar to a 1000-fold increase in yield w.r.t. target destruction probability. On the other hand, though, they aren’t so useable in the sense that, in many (if not most) circumstances today, U.S. decision-makers possesses far, far more believeable nonnuclear options (thanks to many the very sorts of technological improvements that arms controllers condemn, e.g., better precision) than it did, say again, during the Eisenhower Administration. (Or Nixon Admin.)

    Are U.S. nuclear weapons useful? Yes, but within limits. At the risk of getting jargony, I’d say that the “non-use” of U.S. nuclear weapons had many uses. For example, during the Cold War, and to some extent today, U.S. nuclear weapons helped to dissuade many, many of Uncle Sam’s allies in Europe and Asia from getting their own strike forces.

    Such credible security guarantees helped—this is important—to bolster the credibility of the NPT. Uncle Sam’s nonnuclear friends could sign the NPT because they could depend on the commitment of Uncle Sam’s nuclears (and later, much more on its nonnuclears) if the nuclear sh*t started to hit the Cold War fan. Then, as today, the most troublesome states often fall outside of nuclear-anchored alliance systems.

    To be sure, nuclears are awful, awful things, and their actual use would be a tragedy. But the posture of U.S. nuclears deserves more genuine debate and thoughtfulness than provided by the sort of bumper-sticker rhetoric (e.g., “Doomsday Dozen”) that comes from “complete and total” disarmers, or the MADdest of arms controllers.

    “The world” had a real chance to abolish nuclears: i.e., Uncle Sam’s Baruch Plan. You really want to move towards nuclear abolition? Start by revisiting that plan.