Strategic Weapons:

Nuclear Weapons Targeting Process

NSIAD-91-319FS: Published: Sep 27, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 7, 1991.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided an unclassified description of the Department of Defense's process for formulating its strategic nuclear weapons targeting policy and translating that policy into a nuclear war plan, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), focusing on the: (1) relationship between the strategic nuclear targeting process and the determination of requirements for nuclear weapons and related delivery systems; (2) level of civilian oversight; and (3) categories and types of targets.

GAO noted that the strategic nuclear weapons targeting process consists of: (1) broad guidance from the President, including the requirement for a range of attack options, the types of forces desired, general targeting objectives, broad categories of targets, the requirement for survivable command, control, and communications systems, and the requirement for a secure reserve force; (2) guidance from the Secretary of Defense, which provides basic planning assumptions, attack options, targeting objectives, types of targets within various categories, targeting constraints, and coordination with theater commanders; (3) guidance from the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, which provides the requirement plans for specific employment options, the requirement for a secure reserve force, and damage criteria to be used for targeting; and (4) SIOP, which consists of plans and attack options. GAO also noted that: (1) the targeting process is designed to develop a plan that provides the President with a range of options for using U.S. nuclear weapons in response to any level of aggression; (2) the four broad categories of targets include nuclear forces and supporting command and control, military and political leadership, other military forces and supporting command control, and war-supporting industrial and economic factories; (3) the relationship between the strategic nuclear weapons targeting process and the determination of nuclear weapon force level requirements and budgets is indirect; and (4) the Office of the Secretary of Defense provides civilian oversight of the targeting process and the war plan.

Sep 22, 2016

Sep 21, 2016

Sep 19, 2016

Sep 12, 2016

Sep 8, 2016

Sep 7, 2016

Sep 6, 2016

Aug 25, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here