Protecting the United States Against Terrorist Nuclear Attacks: A System of Systems Approach   [open pdf - 325KB]

"The threat of a nuclear weapon delivered against a US city by unconventional means has been recognized and studied for almost 50 years. For most of that time the threat was assumed to emanate from the Soviet Union, and as the Soviet arsenal of long range ballistic missiles and bombers grew, the threat of unconventional delivery receded. During the 1990s, the demise of the USSR, the end of the cold war, and improving relations with Russia all signaled a further decline in the threat. However, that same decade saw an increase in 'rogue states', state-sponsored terrorists, and non-state actors with great antipathy toward the US, and displaying greater success in obtaining weapons of mass destruction than in acquiring long-range means of delivering them. There was also an increase in nuclear proliferation--aided in part by the partial chaos that followed the end of the Soviet Union, and in part by the increasing accessibility of nuclear weapons technology now about 60 years old. There is ample reason for renewed concern about a terrorist nuclear threat. Most studies of preventing terrorist nuclear attacks have reached the same basic conclusion--none of the available basic techniques is sufficiently capable to preclude a successful attack with a high degree of confidence. These techniques are generally: (1) arms control and related diplomatic measures to control proliferation and access to technology and materials for making nuclear weapons; (2) physical security and control of existing weapons and materials; (3) pre-emptive actions; (4) deterrent threats of retaliation for attacks; (5) border controls and related domestic security measures aimed at preventing the movement of weapons or materials into the US; and (6) intelligence collection and law enforcement measures leading to the discovery and apprehension of would-be perpetrators. Effective consequence control and mitigation--still a long way from reality--could be at best a distant second in desirability." Note: This document has been added to the Homeland Security Digital Library in agreement with the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) as part of the PASCC collection. Permission to download and/or retrieve this resource has been obtained through PASCC.

Report Number:
Contract No. DTRA01-00-P-0155
Public Domain. Downloaded or retrieved via external web link as part of the PASCC collection.
Retrieved From:
ASCO/PASCC Archives via NPS Center on Contemporary Conflict
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