To maintain a vibrant and relevant national security community, one must continuously examine and critically assess the political objectives and capabilities of national strategy against current and future challenges. This is a key fundamental of U.S. administrations (past and present) in developing a National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy to guide executive agencies in managing their resources. In particular, much has been written about the return of great power competition – how China and Russia have reasserted their influence both regionally and globally. In 2018, the Trump administration expressed its concern about global strategic competition as well as the continuing threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The Obama administration had similar highlevel guidance on the need to counter WMD proliferation. Despite these administrations’ emphasis on the need to leverage the whole-of-government to address varied WMD threats, there has been no unclassified national strategy since 2002 to provide direction as to ends, ways, and means to prevent adversarial use of WMD against U.S. national security interests. Now it falls to the Biden administration to decide what its strategy to counter WMD will be – a return to the past, focusing on proliferation concerns over smaller nations, or a new concept addressing great power use of WMD in contemporary security scenarios.
The Defense Counterproliferation Initiative began in 1993 as the Clinton administration began its “Bottom-Up Review” to examine the national security threats of a post-Cold War global environment. The Department of Defense (DOD) counterproliferation strategy was developed to channel existing conventional military capabilities to protect U.S. forces from the potential adversary use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons other than by the former Soviet Union. One of the concerns at the time was that non-nuclear nations such as Iraq or Iran (and then-North Korea) would not be deterred by the threat of U.S. nuclear weapons use as a retaliatory action against their chemical or biological weapons use on the battlefield. In addition, following the Aum Shinrikyo use of sarin nerve agent in Tokyo and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, terrorist use of WMD was added as a threat to be addressed by the DOD counterproliferation concept.