The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Released SIOP Histories Point to Nuclear Overkill Plans

New Evidence on the Origins of Overkill. National security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 236 The National Security Archives has unveiled documents painting a picture of the earliest plans for a U.S. nuclear war plan. From the Website: "The documents highlighted in this release are declassified histories of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS), the organization which produced the SIOP from 1960 until the end of the Cold War. " ... "The nuclear war plan, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), has been among the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets. No SIOP has ever been declassified and details about the making of U.S. nuclear war plans have been hard to pry loose. Declassified histories from the early 1960s of SIOP-62 (for fiscal year) and SIOP-63 provide an acute sense of the way that the U.S. government planned to wage nuclear war, as well as how the plans were made and the inter-service conflicts over them. Among the disclosures:
  • The availability of options for preemptive or retaliatory strikes against Soviet and Chinese targets.
  • Goals of high levels of damage (“damage expectancy”) were intrinsic to the plan, which explains why historians have treated “overkill”, or excessive destruction, as one of its most distinctive features.
  • The internal debate within the military over the war plan, especially Army and Navy concern about excessive destruction and radiation hazards to U.S. troops and people in allied countries near targeted countries.
  • The high priority of military targets; according to the National Strategic Targeting and Attack Policy (NSTAP), one of the SIOP’s purposes was “to destroy or neutralize the military capabilities of the enemy.”
  • How the JSTPS constructed the five alternative strikes that constituted SIOP-63 (fiscal year 1963) in order to be responsive to Secretary of Defense McNamara’s quest for alternatives to nuclear attacks on urban-industrial areas, and limit the destructiveness of nuclear war, by focusing on nuclear targets only (“no cities/counterforce”).
  • The role of “strike timing sheets” in the plan, showing how each bomber and missile would reach its target without destroying each other (“fratricide”).
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