Navy Personnel Ordered Not To Discuss Public Nuclear Policy

The US Chief of Naval Operations has publicly issued an Instruction that orders US Navy personnel not to tell anyone that US warships do not carry nuclear weapons. Yet the same Instruction states that it is US policy not to deploy nuclear weapons on the ships.

The new Instruction, “Release of Information on Nuclear Weapons and on Nuclear Capabilities of U.S. Forces,” was published on February 6 and updates a previous version from 1993. Both versions state that nuclear weapons were offloaded from the ships in 1992.

The reason for updating the Instruction is to incorporate four guided missile submarines (SSGNs) that are being converted from ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The SSBNs carry nuclear weapons, but the SSGNs will carry conventional weapons, the publicly available Instruction helpfully informs (!).

Background and analysis here.

One thought on “Navy Personnel Ordered Not To Discuss Public Nuclear Policy

  1. A: This is not terribly surprising. According to that document it is “general U.S. policy not to deploy nuclear weapons,” but if that were to change it would be fairly obvious if suddenly all the sailors stopped saying that no nuclear weapons were aboard. It is sound military doctrine to neither confirm nor deny anything that may (even remotely) help the enemy. The less information is released, the less the enemy can use it. I think it is a good decision.

    Reply: Security of nuclear weapons is important, but “neither confirm nor deny” is not, I believe, about security but about diplomacy. Security of nuclear weapons is achieved through specific safety measures such as physical barriers, armed guards, and intelligence.

    The “neither confirm nor deny” policy, although often defended as a safety measure, arose in the 1960s out of a need to ensure unrestricted access to foreign ports with nuclear-armed warships. Since then the security claim has become so embedded in the policy statements that it has become fact. For a chronology of the “neither confirm nor deny” policy, download this report.

    Just how silly the “neither confirm nor deny” policy is today is evident from the fact that it is maintained onboard warships at the same time that the government has publicly stated that the nuclear weapons have been offloaded and all the surface ships have been denuclearized. – MK

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