The Scowcroft Center’s namesake, General Brent Scowcroft, was the chairman of the 1983 Scowcroft Commission that established the foundation for US nuclear deterrence and arms control policy through the present day. As the United States enters a new era of strategic challenges, the Scowcroft Center’s Forward Defense program is proud to play a central role in crafting an effective and nonpartisan strategic forces strategy and policy for the twenty-first century.

The 2022 National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review caution that the United States will, for the first time in its history, face the challenge of simultaneously deterring two nuclear great powers, each with aggressive revisionist goals. Our Nuclear Strategy Project, within the Forward Defense program, focuses on the role of nuclear deterrence, nuclear strategy and employment, missile defense, and arms control in deterring conventional aggression and nuclear escalation against the United States, its allies, and partners.

Principal research areas

Nuclear Strategy

Shape US nuclear strategy and implications for extended deterrence, allied assurance, and nuclear escalation.

Inform the national and/or international debate concerning potential changes in nuclear strategy and nuclear force structure.

Assess the changing requirements for extended deterrence and assurance of allies under nuclear triploarity.

Arms Control

Understand and shape the changing nature of and role for arms control in the new trilateral security environment.

Assess the relationship between US nuclear deterrence requirements and nuclear arms control to inform US negotiating positions for a potential future arms control framework.

Missile Defense

Shape the relationship between homeland missile defense and US nuclear strategy as it relates to North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China.

Anticipate and inform the national and international debate on new technologies for missile defense and its implications for strategic stability.

Emerging Threats

Assess the implications of new threats and technologies for US nuclear deterrence and strategy.

Understand and assess which threats have the greatest potential for affecting the military balance and nuclear deterrence.

Must Reads

Report

Feb 2, 2024

Requirements for nuclear deterrence and arms control in a two-nuclear-peer environment

By Greg Weaver and Amy Woolf

Gregory Weaver and Amy Woolf discuss the future of US nuclear posture and arms control, as the United States will soon face two adversaries with peer nuclear arsenals.

Arms Control China

Commentary & quick analysis

New Atlanticist

May 21, 2024

Congress should save the Sentinel ICBM—its true value is more than simply its cost

By James McCue

The value of the new intercontinental ballistic missile program should be measured over its full lifetime and not just by its current price tag.

Defense Technologies National Security

New Atlanticist

Apr 11, 2024

Is the United States falling behind the North Korean ICBM threat? Congress needs answers.

By Robert Soofer

Washington must not wait until Pyongyang is regularly test-launching ICBMs with multiple re-entry vehicles and countermeasures to improve US defenses.

Defense Technologies Korea

New Atlanticist

Apr 3, 2024

The US is building a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile. Congress must make sure it’s built right.

By Robert Soofer

There are forces at play—bureaucratic, budgetary, and programmatic—that could stymie the SLCM-N if US lawmakers do not pay close attention.

Defense Technologies Nuclear Deterrence

New Atlanticist

Feb 15, 2024

Russian nuclear anti-satellite weapons would require a firm US response, not hysteria

By Clementine G. Starling, Mark J. Massa

If fielded, such weapons would directly challenge norms of responsible behavior in space and present a serious risk to all nations’ satellites.

Arms Control Russia

Experts react

Feb 15, 2024

Experts react: What to know about Russia’s apparent plans for a space-based nuclear weapon

By Atlantic Council experts

Reports that Russia is developing a space-based nuclear anti-satellite weapon have raised national security concerns in Washington.

Defense Policy National Security

Reports & issue briefs

Report

Feb 2, 2024

Requirements for nuclear deterrence and arms control in a two-nuclear-peer environment

By Greg Weaver and Amy Woolf

Gregory Weaver and Amy Woolf discuss the future of US nuclear posture and arms control, as the United States will soon face two adversaries with peer nuclear arsenals.

Arms Control China

Issue Brief

Jan 31, 2024

A US-South Korea alliance strategic memo on deterrence

By Markus Garlauskas, Lauren D. Gilbert

With North Korea’s rapidly advancing military technology, aggressive nuclear policy changes, and deepening ties with the PRC making deterrence on the Korean Peninsula increasingly more complex, this is how the US and South Korea can shore up cooperative deterrence and boost alliance resilience.

China Defense Policy
Snow leopard in the rain

Atlantic Council Strategy Paper Series

Jan 17, 2024

Six ‘snow leopards’ to watch for in 2024

Atlantic Council foresight experts spot the underappreciated phenomena that could have outsize impact on the world, driving global change and shaping the future.

Climate Change & Climate Action Defense Technologies
Image for Deliberate nuclear use in a war over Taiwan: Scenarios and considerations for the United States

Report

Nov 30, 2023

Deliberate nuclear use in a war over Taiwan: Scenarios and considerations for the United States

By Matthew Kroenig

Matthew Kroenig argues the US and the PRC would have incentives to use nuclear weapons in a Taiwan war. The US must deter PRC nuclear use.

Arms Control China

Issue Brief

Nov 22, 2023

The role of nuclear weapons in a Taiwan crisis

By Gregory Weaver

Nuclear deterrence would be key in a Taiwan crisis, in part because a PLA amphibious fleet would be vulnerable to a US nuclear strike.

China Conflict

Past events

In the news

In the News

Apr 15, 2024

Vinograd on CBS News explaining the current Israel-Iran tensions after Iranian missile strikes

On April 15, Forward Defense Nonresident Senior Fellow Samantha Vinograd appeared on CBS News to discuss Israel-Iran tensions after Israeli air defense, supported by the US and allies, intercepted over more than 300 Iranian drones and missiles.

Conflict Defense Policy

In the News

Apr 12, 2024

Konaev cited in the Washington Post about drone swarms escalating global conflict

On April 12, Forward Defense Nonresident Senior Fellow Margarita Konaev was quoted in a Washington Post article titled “US-China competition to field military drone swarms could fuel global arms race,” about the risks of increasing the deployment of drone swarms.

Arms Control China

In the News

Apr 3, 2024

Soofer quoted in Newsweek article about the US nuclear arsenal

By Atlantic Council

Forward Defense senior fellow Robert Soofer was quoted in Newsweek about the US nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear Deterrence United States and Canada

In the News

Mar 20, 2024

Kroenig spoke on the Congressional Commission on US Strategic Posture at ExchangeMonitor Nuclear Deterrence Summit

By Atlantic Council

Matthew Kroenig spoke at the ExchangeMonitor Nuclear Deterrence Summit as a member of the Congressional Commission on U.S. Strategic Posture.

China Iran

In the News

Mar 18, 2024

Massa in iNews on Russian threats of nuclear weapons use

By Atlantic Council

On February 29, Mark Massa was quoted in iNews and spoke about Russia’s history of nuclear threats and what the most recent threats from Russia mean for the war in Ukraine and for NATO.

NATO Nuclear Deterrence

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Forward Defense, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, generates ideas and connects stakeholders in the defense ecosystem to promote an enduring military advantage for the United States, its allies, and partners. Our work identifies the defense strategies, capabilities, and resources the United States needs to deter and, if necessary, prevail in future conflict.