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Gerald L. Atkinson, S-CUBED

In the past, the clear dominance of U.S. strategic nuclear forces permitted the deployment of tactical nuclear and conventional forces at a relatively high but acceptable level of risk with respect to survivability. Today, however, the U.S. strategic nuclear posture no longer provides the same dominance. Should deterrence fail, the United States must be prepared to engage in combat across the full spectrum of possible conflicts, including conventional operations in a nuclear environment. Thus, early in the 1980s, the Department of Defense (DOD) (1983) issued a directive that required weapon systems be able to survive the effects of nuclear weapons. This directive attempted to assure that meaningful survivability programs would become integral parts of the total defense weapon acquisition system. For the first time in U.S. history, this effort explicitly included the mandate that funding for nuclear survivability and hardening be included in investment planning for U.S. forces. (Although in some cases, techniques other than hardening to nuclear effects might be feasible, nuclear hardening continues to be the centerpiece for the survivability of weapon systems. The phrase nuclear hardening refers to the art of designing weapon systems and their components so that they are less susceptible to the effects of nuclear weapon detonation than if left unprotected.)

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