This paper looks freshly at how to evaluate future nuclear forces and postures. A fresh look is needed for the New Start era because the role of nuclear weapons in security continues to change — but in ways that are not well understood and have not been much discussed analytically. After reviewing past and present criteria for nuclear assessments, and contrasting enduring stances on such matters by policymakers, the author recommends evaluating options for ability to achieve generalized versions of five top-level objectives: strategic stability; crisis stability; ability for the United States to act, defeat, and defend; nonproliferation and other policy goals; and risk control.
This working paper was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted by the RAND National Defense Research Institute.
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