The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters (ODASD(NM)) is pleased to
present the Nuclear Matters Handbook 2020, celebrating over 20 years in print.
This book offers an overview of the U.S. nuclear enterprise and how the United States
maintains a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent.

The content of this unofficial 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.


The Office of Nuclear Matters

The ODASD(NM) is the successor organization to the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, first established in 1947. The office oversees and advocates for the safety, security, reliability, survivability, effectiveness, and credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Nuclear deterrence is the number one priority mission of the Department of Defense.

The ODASD(NM) is the focal point of DoD for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. The office serves as the primary liaison with the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) to assure alignment between the two departments that share responsibility for the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

The ODASD(NM) is comprised of representatives from across the U.S. nuclear weapons community, including the Military Departments, NNSA national security laboratories and production sites, Headquarters NNSA, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and contractors with diverse nuclear scientific and operational expertise and experience.

The Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC) Staff is located within the ODASD(NM), as are the staff functions of the Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group (NDERG), the Strategic Radiation Hardened Electronics Council (SRHREC), and other nuclear-related councils, committees, and groups. It is the only office in the federal government whose area of responsibility includes issues related to both the U.S. nuclear weapons mission and the nuclear threat reduction mission (nuclear counterterrorism and counterproliferation).

Roadmap for this Book

This handbook provides an unofficial but comprehensive overview of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and information relevant to a basic understanding of the many topics and issues related to it. It is intended for anyone seeking an introduction to nuclear weapons and for those who need a more detailed understanding to perform their professional functions.

This handbook may be read cover to cover, although each chapter is designed to stand alone in providing information specific to the topics addressed. There are many interdependencies among the various elements of the nuclear deterrent, the authorities under which it operates, and the many organizations that make up the Nuclear Enterprise (DoD) and the Nuclear Security Enterprise (NNSA) as well as other U.S. government agencies and international partners that contribute to the overall health and well-being of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. This handbook makes those connections where feasible, but should be considered more of an unofficial reference document rather than a cohesive narrative.

Chapter 1 offers an overview of the U.S. nuclear deterrent-past, present, and future. Nuclear weapons topics include command and control (Chapter 2), delivery systems (Chapter 3), nuclear weapons (Chapter 4), NNSA infrastructure that supports the deterrent (Chapter 5), and the way in which nuclear weapons are kept safe, secure, and under positive control (Chapter 8). Chapter 9 covers survivability against nuclear weapons effects and nuclear effects testing. Chapter 7 describes the process that drives the development, maintenance, modernization, and retirement of nuclear weapons.

The handbook also covers policies and laws that govern nuclear weapons-related activities undertaken by the U.S. Government. Chapter 6 describes the Nuclear Weapons Council, the DoD-NNSA interagency group that manages the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Chapters 10 and 11 cover international nuclear policy, including nuclear threat reduction efforts and nuclear cooperation with U.S. allies. Chapter 16 covers the budgeting process that supports both DoD and NNSA for nuclear weapons issues.

A brief introduction (for non-technical readers) to the science of nuclear weapons can be found in Chapter 13. Chapter 14 covers the history of nuclear explosive testing, and Chapter 15 details the nuclear fuel cycle and its potential relationship to nuclear proliferation.

The remaining chapters highlight the legal authorities that control various subjects related to nuclear weapons, including nuclear treaties and agreements (Chapter 12), relevant U.S. laws and policies (Chapter 17), and the classification of nuclear information (Chapter 18).