Deterrence of Nuclear Terrorism Via Post-Detonation Attribution: Is the United States on Target?   [open pdf - 342KB]

From the thesis abstract: "As nuclear terrorism is a risk of low probability and high consequences, the United States is right to address it as a significant--but not the utmost--national security priority. The science of nuclear forensics makes possible the characterization of nuclear materials used in a nuclear attack, and, as such, provides the backbone of an attribution program. Nuclear forensics-based attribution serves the dual purpose of helping to prevent nuclear terrorism by enabling deterrence, as well as guiding and enabling post-attack response options in the event of deterrence failure. The deterrence that an attribution capability alone enables is fairly narrow in its effective scope, though this deterrence does cover what would otherwise be a critical gap in U.S. strategy for preventing nuclear terrorism. The U.S. attribution capability is currently lacking in several important regards, the most significant of which is a future dearth of highly qualified personnel. Since an attribution capability is a critical enabler, the United States must do more to efficiently develop its attribution program. This can be done most cost-effectively in the short term by focusing on unilateral program needs while building an enduring domestic political will to improve and then maintain the nation's attribution capability."

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