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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Single Integrated Operational Plan [SIOP]

With Hiroshima, the world transitioned in an instant from a "post-War" environment to a "pre SIOP" enviroment. The history of nuclear weapons development, strategy, and policy is both vast and complex and would take many volumes to cover sufficiently. US nuclear policy and strategy have been in a state of evolution since 1945, reacting to changes in both US and Soviet nuclear capabilities.

Deterrence is a complex concept. The word deter derives from a Latin root, deterre, that means, “to frighten from” or “to turn aside, discourage, or prevent from acting.” Dr. Strangelove defined deterrence when he says: "Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy... the fear to attack".

In 1960, Herman Kahn, who was at RAND through the late 1950s and into the mid-1960s, published his seminal work On Thermonuclear War in which he collected a series of lectures he had been giving DoD personnel and others concerning “thinking the unthinkable.” The book bursts with calculations and arguments among which are multiple levels of escalation (provided the two sides correctly can send their messages and the message sent is correctly received) and a distinguishing of three levels of deterrence. He simply called them Types I, II, and III. Type I deterrence was deterrence of hostile acts against one’s homeland, Type II was the deterrence of hostile acts against one’s allies, and Type III was a category of “all other acts” that are characterized as hostile.

Generally the earliest plans for nuclear weapons were an extension of conventional strategic bombing. Under Truman, original strategic planning was known as PINCHER. It was a general, warfighting plan, begun in March 1946. HALFMOON was approved by the JCS on May 19, 1948 for planning purposes. The JCS approved a new Joint Emergency War Plan on January 28, 1949, designated TROJAN.

The nuclear strategy of Eisenhower was massive retaliation. In 1960, the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS) created SIOP-62, the first Single Integrated Operational Plan. The new SIOP-62 was a rigid, all-purpose plan, designed for execution in existing form, regardless of circumstances. The rigidity stemmed from:

  • Military belief that USSR will strike cities, or urban-military targets; hence there is no need for selective U.S. targeting.
  • Military belief that, regardless of circumstances, USSR will be able to launch some weapons against U.S. Nowhere is real consideration given to possibility of interaction between American and Soviet targeting philosophy.
  • Belief that winning general war means coming out relatively better than USSR, regardless of magnitude of losses.
  • A fear that retaliation against cities after a surprise attack may be all the US coulc do; with US command-control knocked out, alternative plans might leave residual U.S. forces uncertain as to what to attack; U.S. flexibility would become known, and decrease deterrence.

The Single Integrated Operational Plan for Fiscal Year 1962, or SIOP-62, came into effect on April 15, 1961. Robert McNamara, Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, said “…one cannot fashion a credible deterrent out of an incredible action.” The threat of massive retaliation in response to every crisis was not credible, and so in departing from the inflexible massive retaliation, the Kennedy administration hoped that it was making the nuclear deterrent more credible.

One option McNamara examined was minimum deterrence, where the U.S. forces would not respond massively but only be poised to damage enough of the population to deter the Soviet Union. Another option examined was that of controlled response. In March 1961, McNamara requested the JCS consider a “doctrine of controlled responses and negotiating pauses in the event of thermonuclear attack.” William Kaufmann, first at Yale and then at RAND, developed the theory of “counterforce” in which the enemy’s forces were targeted and different options were available to the president. McNamara gave two speeches in the late spring of 1962 that declared the new policy would be counterforce.

In 1961 the Joint Chiefs of Staff reviewed the SIOP guidance contained in the National Strategic Targeting and Attack PoUcy (Tab A to JCSM 372-60 dated 22 August 1960) and agreed that revised guidance should be promulgated for the preparation of SIOP-63. In September 1962, the plan known as SIOP-63 was adopted. Allowing greater flexibility than earlier plans, this strategy incorporated five major target categories: Soviet nuclear forces; military facilities located away from urban areas; Soviet conventional forces close to urban areas; command and control centers; and total attack, including all of the above.

In January, 1972, a DoD panel, chaired by Dr. Johnny Foster, was established to review US nuclear weapon employment policy. In May 1972, this panel forwarded to the Secretary of Defense the initial results of this review, including a draft of "Tentative Policy Guidance for the Employment of Nuclear Weapons".

The National Strategic Targeting and Attack Poiicy (NSTAP), prepared by the JCS, was the only source of definitive policy for the employment of US nuclear weapons. The fundamental concept of the NSTAP was to maximize US power so as to attain and maintain a strategic superiority which will lead to "an early termination of a nuclear war on terms favorable to the United States and its allies". To implement this concept, the NSTAP called for employment of forces in the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) to meet the following objectives:

  1. To destroy or neutralize, on a selective basis, nuclear offensive capabilities of the enemv that threaten the United States and its allies, in order to limit damage to the United States and its allies to the maximum extent practicable.
  2. To destrov or neutralize, on a selective basis, a comprehensive enemy military target system in order to assist in the destruction of the enemy's overall military capability.
  3. To destroy, on a selective basis and under all conditions of war initiation, the war-supporting and urban/industrial resources of the enemy.

Paralleling these objectives, there were three SIOP tasks, or weapon­target packages, desjgnated ALPHA, BRAVO, and CHARLIE.

  1. Task ALPHA includes strikes on nuclear threats, including ICBM and IR/MRBM sites, bomber bases, bases for missile-launching submarines, civilian and military command and control, nuclear weapon storage sites, and defense suppression targets.
  2. Task BRAVO included strikes on tactical airfields and other general purpose and nuclear military targets critical to the overall conduct and direction of military operations.
  3. Task CHARLIE included strikes on urban/industrial targets and military targets co-located with cities.

The NSTAP organized the SIOP tasks into attack options to provide somedegree or flexibility to the National Co~mand Authorities (NCA). All of the attack options of the 1972 NSTAP included execution of Task ALPHA (nuclear threat targets). These attack options provided for withholding Tasks BRAVO and/or CHARLIE and for selective withholding, by task and by country, of attacks against the PRC and the Far Eastern and East European allies of the USSR and the PRC. Moreover, attacks on the government centers in Moscow and Peiping may be selectively withheld or executed. Within the 1972 SIOP per se, China cannot be attacked without attacking the Soviet Union, although there were contingency plans outside of the SIOP which provided for strategic nuclear attacks against China without attack or overflight of the Soviet Union.

The Foster Panel concluded that, in an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union, counterforce strikes cannot provide high confidence in significantly reducing the urban damage the United States and its allies would suffer. Accordingly, the panel gave first prioritv to limiting the level and extent of nuclear control of escalation and to early termination of the conflicton terms acceptable to the United States. This was a major departure from the previous policy of the NSTAP.

Damage to the United States and its allies could be limited if both sides in a nuclear war showed restraint by not attacking many targets valuable to the other side. In an effort to control escalation, initial US attacks could be limited in their size. in their military objectiyes. and in the regions and types of targets attacked. To deter the enemy from further escalation and to induce him to negotiate an end to the war, further US attacks could be held in reserve to threaten targets highly valued by the enemy leadership.

The folling newer strategic concepts to this end were introduced in the Tentative Guidance and reflected in its attack options:

  1. Escalation Boundaries - attack options should allow the NCA to wage nuclear war within clearly defined boundaries (e.g., attack size, target classes, and geographic regions for the purpose of demonstraing the intention to keep the war limited.
  2. Deterrence of Further Enemy Escalation -- to complement escalation boundaries, there should be attack options which, when withheld, can credibly threaten targets highly yalued by the enemy leadership for the purpose of deterring escalation across those boundaries.
  3. Trans-Attack Stability -- the US forces and C3 necessary for successful execution of those attack options which are likely to be withheld to deter further escalation should haye a high degree of enduring survival throughout a protracted, but limited, nuclear conflict in order to minimize pressures on the NCA for early execution of those attack options.
  4. Avoidance of Enemy Command and Control -- the NCA should have the ability to withhold attacks on the enemy NCA and their sensors and communications in order to preserve the enemy ability to control forcesand to negotiate.

There are many uncertainties about the circumstances of a nuclear war which indicate that attacks options may need to be tailored at the time they are considered by the NCA for execution. Without prior preparation, however, it could take days or weeks to plan, evaluate, and implement attack options, depending on the size of the attack. The 1972 Tentative Guidance avoided using the terms "preemption" and "retaliation" so as not to prejudge the circumstances in which the United States might actually use nuclear we~pons. The NCA may need these options in a matter of minutes or hours. Accordingly, the nuclear war plans and procedures should provide as many preplanned~attack options as possible, consistent with US force capabilities and with the need for large attacks designed to secure a relatively favorable post-war position for the United States and its alliesin the event that escalation cannot be controlled.

  1. Major Attack Options [MAO] provide for large scale, preplanned attacks on the USSR, the PRC, and their allies for the purpose of securing a relatively advantageous post-war positign for the United States and its allies. These are analogous to the attack options of the early NSTAP.
  2. Selected Attack Options [SAO] provide for moderate scale, preplanned attacks on selected regions and/or classes of targets for the purpose primarily of controlling escalation. The principle of flexibility which is implemented in these Selected Attack Options was contained in the revised 1971 NSTAP.
  3. Limited Nuclear Optons (LNOs) provide for small scale, ad hoc and pre-planned attacks in circumstances not covered by the Selected Attack Options.

The 1979 Targeting Study describes a building block approach to targeting in general terms. The concept involved developing packages of targets whose destruction would accomplish a specific military, political or economic objective, and being able to combine these packages in different ways to accomplish multiple objectives. The objective of the approach is to provide the President with a broader (but still manageable) range of options if he should have to consider execution of the SIOP. The Nuclear Targeting Policy Review recommendd that employment policy with respect to China be ~odified to reflect current political and military realities.

A Launch Under Attack (LUA) option or options utilizing ICBMs only was developed. LUA cannot be a substitute for measures to reduce ICBM vulnerability. However, the President would have available to him an option or options which would permit him to launch ICBMs rapidly against a set of military targets (including defense support facilities) with minimum collateral damage to other targets, and to conserve more survivable forces for follow-on attacks or coercion. The attack would be designed to minimize fatalities while still achieving the objectives of the attack. Several variations should be developed which demonstrate the trade-off between damage expectancies and fatalities in attacks on target sets of various sizes.

Three proposed canonical scenarios for protracted war were analyzed in the SAI study "On Protracted General War: A Study of the Nature of Conflict after a U.S./Soviet Nuclear Exchange" 18 September 1980. In the classic European war scenario both the United States and the Soviet Union act as their declaratory postures would dictate. The Warsaw Pact, in a situation of growing tension along the East-West division in Central Europe, launches a massivp conventional attack at the tail end of an exercise. The Warsaw Pact offensive is relatively successful and, on D-7, NATO decides to execute a number of battlefield and interdiction selective employment plans (SEPs) against WP tactical forces in an attempt to prevent their breakthrough and also strikes a limited number of key military targets in the Western Military Districts of the Soviet Union.

This decision triggers a massive Soviet nuclear preemptive attack on D+7, involving a countermilitary attack on both the continental United States and NATO targets in Europe. Nuclear hostilities also develop rapidly in the sea areas associated with the European theater. However, no hostilities develop outside the European theater and its sea environs, and no other theaters are affected by the Soviet attack. The United States, having seen the initial NATO attack partially degraded by the Soviet preemption, responds immediately on D+8 with a large counter-military attack on the Soviet Union and on WP nuclear and conventional force targets in the non-Soviet Warsaw Pact. In the base case, the United States executes a delayed response to the Soviet attacks; in a variant, the United States could be assumed to launch under attack and therefore both execute a more effective response and retain a larger number of weapons for post-SIOP operations.

From this point, a de facto ceasefire holds in terms of attacks on homeland targets until much later in the war. By D-15, facing renewed Soviet forward movement in Europe, the United States makes a further series of nuclear strikes in the European theater. These are unsuccessful in stopping the WP advance but do draw a Soviet response on D19 against war-supporting industry throughout Western Europe. Faced with total defeat in Europe, the United States decides on D 20 to try to destroy tre Soviet military position in other key theaters (Far East/Pacific, Sino-Soviet border, Latin knerica) and at sea by means of a series of nuclear attacks against key military targets. The Soviets, who have little option to change the upshot in Latin America or on the Sino-Soviet border except at higer potential cost, confine themselves to a response in kind against U.S. forces and facilities in the Far East/Pacific region (on D+23).

At this point, hostilities cease and a protracted lull starts.

In 2003 STRATCOM changed the nation’s nuclear war plan from a single, large, integrated plan to a family of plans applicable in a wider range of scenarios. for the Global Strike” mission assigned to STRATCOM. Major plan revision provides “more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies.” OPLAN 8044 is “a global deterrence plan” that represents “a significant step toward integrating deterrence activities across government agencies and with Allied partners.”




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