President George W. Bush has issued a directive to the Pentagon to initiate a review of U.S. strategic policy, according to administration officials. The classified directive, dated February 15, calls for an assessment of the proper balance and role of offensive nuclear forces and defensive capabilities. The administration expects the review to be completed by mid-summer.
Administration officials have declined to specify whether the upcoming review is the strategic posture review ordered by Congress this past fall. In the fiscal year 2001 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress called for the Pentagon to conduct a nuclear posture review "concurrently" with the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a thorough Pentagon assessment of U.S. military policy to be carried out every four years. (See ACT, November 2000.)
The strategic review is part of a larger "top to bottom" review Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has pledged to undertake, which also includes a review of conventional force structure and a review of personnel issues. When queried about the scope of the "top to bottom" review and its relationship to the QDR at a January 30 briefing, Defense Department spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley stated that Rumsfeld "just has not finalized his thinking on that."
The Clinton administration conducted a nuclear posture review in 1994 that largely reaffirmed existing policy. The administration also issued a presidential decision directive in 1997 that significantly modified U.S. nuclear doctrine, abandoning a Reagan-era requirement to be able to fight and win a protracted nuclear war.The new review's outcome appears central to the Bush administration's implementation of campaign promises on unilaterally reducing U.S. nuclear forces and deploying a missile defense. On January 26, Bush pledged to "go forward" with missile defense and to fulfill his campaign promise on nuclear forces "commensurate with our ability to keep the peace."