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Reuters September 10, 2005

Pentagon document would alter nuclear weapons plan

WASHINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department has written a draft revision of its nuclear operations doctrine that outlines the use of nuclear weapons to pre-empt an enemy's attack with weapons of mass destruction, according to a copy of the document available online on Saturday.

The draft "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations," dated March 15, revised the "discussion of nuclear weapons use across the range of military operations."

According to the document, combatant commanders could request approval from the president to use nuclear weapons under a variety of scenarios, such as to pre-empt an enemy's use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, multinational or alliance forces or civilian populations.

Commanders could seek approval to use nuclear weapons in the face of an enemy's imminent biological weapons attack that "only effects from nuclear weapons can safely destroy," the document said.

The draft also envisioned nuclear weapon use in attacks on enemy installations containing weapons of mass destruction, among other scenarios.

A Defense Department spokesman told Reuters the document had not yet been given to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It is due to be signed within the next few weeks by the director of the Joint Staff, the spokesman said.

The unclassified document was available on numerous Web sites such as GlobalSecurity.org, a defense policy Web site. A Pentagon site, however, listed the document as unavailable.

Other scenarios envisioned in the draft doctrine include nuclear weapons use to counter potentially overwhelming conventional forces, for rapid and favorable war termination on U.S. terms, to demonstrate U.S. intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter enemy use of weapons of mass destruction, and to respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction supplied by an enemy to a "surrogate."

The document said "numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal)" and about 30 countries have programs for weapons of mass destruction.

"Further, the possible use of WMD by nonstate actors either independently or as sponsored by an adversarial state, remain a significant proliferation concern," the draft said.

Copyright 2005, Reuters