Adding to the Bush administration's multitude of policy reviews, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has formally initiated a comprehensive analysis of U.S. nuclear command and control policy, which governs the procedures and technical systems that authorize nuclear weapons use.
The establishment of a committee to conduct the "End-to-End Review of the U.S. Nuclear Command and Control System" was first made public in the Federal Register March 6. A Defense official indicated March 19 that the committee will examine nuclear command and control "from national command authority to individual weapons" and will attempt to ascertain the "appropriate balance between facilitating authorized use and preventing unauthorized use." The review will also consider the role of "emerging technologies and threats," according to the official.
The review will cover the responsibilities of the nine departments and agencies involved in nuclear command and control: the National Security Council; the departments of State, Justice, Energy, and Defense; the Office of Management and Budget; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the White House Military Office; and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The six-person committee, which is expected to meet for the first time April 5, will be chaired by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and includes three other former government officials and two current senior officials.While Defense officials were unsure of when a review examining interagency command and control policy was last conducted, they said that the Defense Department last examined its own responsibilities in 1992. Last year, then-Defense Secretary William Cohen apparently began the process required to undertake the interagency review, and Rumsfeld decided to move ahead with it following a briefing on the issue he received shortly after taking office.