Sandia Labs Historical Video Documents History of U.S. Strategic Nuclear Policy
Interviewees include Robert McNamara, Brent Scowcroft, James Schlesinger and Last Strategic Air Commander-in-Chief Lee Butler. Includes Revelations on "Out of Control" Nuclear Targeting During the 1980s.
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 361
Disk 4: 1984-2003, chapters 24 through 29
These chapters cover the story of the "quiet revolution" in nuclear strategy from Ronald Reagan to George H. W. Bush, the end of the Cold War, arms control during the Clinton administration and the emergence of "new threats," the impact of 9/11, and the prospects for nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence.
The "quiet revolution" is a fascinating account of the internal debates and decisions over nuclear targeting policy during the 1980s and early 1990s, sparked by the concern of civilian and military defense officials that strategic targeting at was getting out of control. Following assumptions about damage expectancies that were quite severe, SIOP planners argued that "we did not have enough warheads" to destroy threatening targets. General Lee Butler (the last commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command), among others, concluded that "something was quite wrong here." Recognition of these problems led to major reform during 1985-1988 so that nuclear war plans actually reflected presidential guidance. Further changes, including more "reasonable damage expectancies," took place under Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney during the early 1990s. Of particular interest is the coverage of Trident II whose ballistic missile took on counterforce missions, thus adding to the lethality of U.S. strategic forces.12 As Harold Brown observes, Trident II RVS had a "fair chance of destroying land-based missiles and bomber bases" in 15 minutes.
13See for example, Vojtech Mastny, "How Able Was "Able Archer"? Nuclear Trigger and Intelligence in Perspective," Journal of Cold War Studies 11 (2009) http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_cold_war_studies/v011/11.1.mastny.html
14Greg Thielmann, "The Missile Gap Myth and Its Progeny," Arms Control Today (May 2011) http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2011_05/Thielmann
These materials are reproduced from www.nsarchive.org with the permission of the National Security Archive.