The 2009 Nuclear Posture Review, the third formal review of U.S. nuclear strategy conducted since the end of the Cold War, should be conducted as a strategy-driven exercise guided by a vision for nuclear weapons policy elaborated by the president in a Presidential Decision Directive or other appropriate means. A review process conducted without a sense for the ultimate destination is unlikely to produce any meaningful changes in the posture. This vision is essential for defining the parameters of interagency debate (what’s settled and what’s up for grabs), focusing the review process, and arming the president’s appointees with political authority for driving the president’s agenda forward.
The president himself should determine the goal of the review, which could be as general as instructions to his senior appointees that they achieve deep cuts in nuclear forces consistent with sustaining deterrence and revitalize international arms control. His senior appointees should then lead the review, as opposed to delegating the review to mid-level appointees and career civil servants. This is essential in order to identify, weigh, and definitively settle tradeoffs across traditionally stovepiped policy areas.
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