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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Joint Publication 3-12: Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations

Final Coordination (2)
15 March 2005


1. Scope

This publication provides guidelines for the joint employment of forces in nuclear operations. It provides guidance for the employment of US nuclear forces; command and control relationships; and weapons effect considerations.

2. Purpose

This publication has been prepared under the direction of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It sets forth joint doctrine to govern the activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States in operations and provides the doctrinal basis for interagency coordination and for US military involvement in multinational operations. It provides military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders (JFCs) and prescribes joint doctrine for operations and training. It provides military guidance for use by the Armed Forces in preparing their appropriate plans. It is not the intent of this publication to restrict the authority of the JFC from organizing the force and executing the mission in a manner the JFC deems most appropriate to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the overall objective.

3. Application

a. Joint doctrine established in this publication applies to the commanders of combatant commands, subunified commands, joint task forces, subordinate components of these commands, and the Services.

b. The guidance in this publication is authoritative; as such, this doctrine will be followed except when, in the judgment of the commander, exceptional circumstances dictate otherwise. If conflicts arise between the contents of this publication and the contents of Service publications, this publication will take precedence unless the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, normally in coordination with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has provided more current and specific guidance. Commanders of forces operating as part of a multinational (alliance or coalition) military command should follow multinational doctrine and procedures ratified by the United States. For doctrine and procedures not ratified by the United States, commanders should evaluate and follow the multinational command's doctrine and procedures, where applicable and consistent with US law, regulations, and doctrine.

The US does not make positive statements defining the circumstances under which it would use nuclear weapons. Maintaining US ambiguity about when it would use nuclear weapons helps create doubt in the minds of potential adversaries, deterring them from taking hostile action. This calculated ambiguity helps reinforce deterrence. If the US clearly defined conditions under which it would use nuclear weapons, others might infer another set of circumstances in which the US would not use nuclear weapons. This perception would increase the chances that hostile leaders might not be deterred from taking actions they perceive as falling below that threshold.

Use of nuclear weapons within a theater requires that nuclear and conventional plans be integrated to the greatest extent possible and that careful consideration be given to the potential impact of nuclear effects on friendly forces. JP 3-12.1, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Theater Nuclear Planning (S), forthcoming, will provide theater planners the nuclear weapons data necessary to determine troop safety information such as minimum safe distances, collateral damage distances and least separation distances.

Full Document:
JP 3-12: Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations - Final Coordination (2) [PDF 1.76 MB]

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