Deterrence Operations

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Deterrence operations convince adversaries not to take actions that threaten US vital interests by means of decisive influence over their decision-making. Decisive influence is achieved by credibly threatening to deny benefits and/or impose costs, while encouraging restraint by convincing the actor that restraint will result in an acceptable outcome. Because of the uncertain future security environment, specific vital interests may arise that are identified by senior national leadership. Deterrence strategy and planning must be sufficiently robust and flexible to accommodate these changes when they occur. (Deterrence Joint Operating Concept, 2006)

Because adversarial nation-states or sub-state groups may consider the use of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons against U.S. territory or forces, its allies, or U.S. strategic interests, the U.S. military must posture strategic forces to deter these foes from employing these weapons, either through deterrence by denial or deterrence by pain of retaliation. Options to conduct deterrence can include the employment of nuclear or conventional strike weapons. Offensive and defensive capabilities to counter WMD contribute to the deterrence mission. The United States will provide extended deterrence to its allies to assure them of U.S. protection and to reduce the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Below is a list of documents that provide more information on Deterrence Operations.

Nuclear Posture Review Report, 2018

Nuclear Posture Review Report, 2010

New START Treaty, 2010


Report of the SecDef Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Mgmt, Phase I, 2008

Report of the SecDef Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Mgmt, Phase II, 2008

Deterrence Operations Joint Operating Concept, 2006



Air Force Doctrine Document 3-70, Strategic Attack

Air Force Doctrine Document 3-72, Nuclear Operations

Air Force Policy Directive 13-5, Air Force Nuclear Enterprise

Air Force Policy Directive 91-1, Nuclear Weapons and Systems Surety