The United States faces a wide range of deterrence issues with multiple actors and must look at strategic policies and technical trade-offs to maximize its posture. However, the national security apparatus's focus on counter-terrorism and insurgencies over the past decade has taken priority over deterrence in an era of renewed great power competition. The Center for Global Security Research at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has asked the Capstone team to evaluate the dynamics of the 21st century strategic conflicts to find approaches to enhance the competitive position of the U.S.

With challenges and finite resources available, the team presented five different frameworks to better frame the tradeoffs involved in a particular deterrence posture:

  • Integrated deterrence with conventional primacy;
  • Integrated deterrence with nuclear primacy;
  • Integrated deterrence with space and cyber primacy;
  • Non-integrated deterrence with conventional primacy;
  • And non-integrated deterrence with nuclear primacy.

All five frameworks leave the U.S. vulnerable in certain areas. Integrated postures provide more ladders of escalation and better command and control of conventional forces in a nuclear conflict. However, integrated frameworks lack clear firebreaks. Conversely, non-integrated postures have clear firebreaks, but the command and control of both nuclear and conventional forces in a nuclear conflict would be difficult.

The tem recommended that the Secretary of Defense establish and appoint a joint task force of policy-makers and experts to further discuss the tradeoffs of these frameworks. Further, the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) should be integrated with an in-depth strategic posture review across the domains to assess the feasibility of integration and contrast that with current posture.