"To assert that nuclear weapons now are unimportant is to suggest that deterrence is no longer important, or that the future will be much more benign than the past, and that we will not again confront such opponents armed with dangerous weapons."

Dr. John (Johnny) S. Foster, Jr.
Words from Article in Forum Physics and Society of the American Physical Society – Vol. 36, No. 4 (October 2007)

Recruited in 1952 by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory founder Edward Teller, Dr. Foster is best known as a life-long champion of the nuclear deterrent;  a role he continues to play today. He served as the fourth director of Livermore as well as the Director for Defense Research and Engineering in the Pentagon under four Secretaries of Defense and two Presidents. His words above serve to remind us that we do not yet live in a world free of nuclear weapons. Rather, uncertainty in nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and the nuclear modernization programs of other nations underscores the enduring relevancy of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in protecting the United States and its allies. Nuclear deterrence is complex; it is more than theory, policy, and underpinning forces and weapons. It also incorporates an involved system of actions, processes, procedures, and actors from multiple U.S. Government departments, agencies, and organizations. Furthermore, nuclear infrastructure, nuclear command and control, stockpile management, and nuclear safety and security enable nuclear deterrence to succeed.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration, through nuclear platform and system modernization plans and stockpile stewardship life extension programs, strive to keep the nuclear deterrent safe, secure, and reliable, even as aging nuclear weapons remain well beyond their intended lifetimes.

As we proceed in vigilance, understanding and addressing nuclear threats globally, international nuclear cooperation becomes increasingly necessary in ensuring the U.S. nuclear deterrent remains viable. While we live in a world where the risk of a global nuclear war has decreased since the fall of the Soviet Union, the risk of nuclear use on the United States, its allies, and interests has only increased through an expanding number of potential state and non-state nuclear players. Through our cooperation with our partners and allies throughout the globe, our nuclear forces provide an ever present authority in dissuading threats and deterring attacks by potential adversaries.

The 2016 edition of the Nuclear Matters Handbook guides us through the elements of nuclear deterrence and our approaches for sustaining U.S. nuclear forces and the nuclear weapons stockpile.

The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters (ODASD(NM)) is pleased to present the 2016 edition of the Nuclear Matters Handbook.  This book offers an overview of the U.S. nuclear enterprise and how the United States’ safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent is maintained.

This guide to Nuclear Matters should be read in its entirety for those who seek to understand the nuclear deterrent and can be used as a reference source for specific areas.  The book is divided into Chapters and Appendices; the Chapters present an overview of the nuclear subjects, while the Appendices provide supplementary and more in-depth information for those less familiar with nuclear forces and weapons.

The content of the Handbook is the sole responsibility of the ODASD(NM).  Please refer to the applicable statute, regulation, Department of Defense Directives and Instructions, or Department of Energy Orders for definitive guidance in all areas related to U.S. nuclear weapons.

This is an unofficial guide and is therefore neither authoritative nor directive, although every effort has been made to ensure that it is accurate and comprehensive.