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 read

Issue Brief

May 1, 2023

US strategy and force posture for an era of nuclear tripolarity

By Keir Lieber, Daryl G. Press

Keir Lieber and Daryl Press lay out a vision for the future of US nuclear doctrine and strategy under the condition of nuclear tripolarity.

China Defense Policy

Commentary & quick analysis

New Atlanticist

Apr 27, 2023

Not every North Korean missile needs a response. South Korea and the US should focus more on readiness and deterrence.

By Jessica Taylor

The nuclear collaboration announced by the US and South Korean presidents this week is the type of strategic measure the allies need to focus on, rather than a reactive approach.

East Asia Indo-Pacific

Fast Thinking

Apr 27, 2023

The day the US-South Korea alliance became truly nuclear-armed

By Atlantic Council

What does the Washington Declaration mean for the alliance, and how will it play in Seoul? Will the pact hold together in the long run? Our experts weigh in.

Indo-Pacific Korea

New Atlanticist

Apr 26, 2023

Experts react: The US and South Korea strike a deal on nuclear weapons. What’s next for the alliance?

By Atlantic Council experts

US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol are navigating political tensions around nuclear weapons and microchips to find a common future.

Indo-Pacific Korea

New Atlanticist

Feb 22, 2023

Russia policy after the war: A new strategy of containment

By Alexander Vershbow

To prevent further damage to the rules-based international order, the United States and its allies will need a strategy of containment to deter Russia militarily and decouple Russia from the international community, until Moscow has earned the right to be considered a partner once more.

Arms Control Defense Policy

New Atlanticist

Feb 3, 2023

Five questions (and expert answers) about the curious case of the Chinese spy balloon

By Atlantic Council experts

US fighter jets have shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon, but the tensions linger in the world’s most important bilateral relationship. Our experts float their takes.

China Indo-Pacific

Reports & issue briefs


Dec 23, 2021

Proactively countering North Korea’s advancing nuclear threat

By Markus Garlauskas

Markus Garlauskas suggests a strategy to counter North Korean nuclear weapons by impeding the growth of its arsenal, investing to stay ahead of new nuclear threats, and adjusting operations on the Korean Peninsula.

Defense Policy Defense Technologies

Issue Brief

Dec 15, 2021

Nuclear priorities for the Biden administration

By John Harvey and Robert Soofer

Former nuclear deterrence policymakers John Harvey and Robert Soofer, from Democratic and Republican administrations, respectively, propose a path for the Biden administration’s nuclear strategy and policy.

China Defense Policy

Issue Brief

Dec 14, 2021

Missile defense: The end of the interim solution

By Patrick O’Reilly

Forward Defense Nonresident Senior Fellow and former US Missile Defense Agency director Patrick O’Reilly argues that the time is now to invest in directed energy missile defense.

China Defense Policy

Issue Brief

Nov 30, 2021

Forward Defense symposium on deterring Chinese strategic attack

By Hans Binnendijk, Rebeccah Heinrichs, and Christopher Twomey

Hans Binnendijk, Rebeccah Heinrichs, and Christopher Twomey contribute issue briefs to a Forward Defense symposium on Chinese nuclear weapons and deterring Chinese strategic attack.

China Defense Policy

Assumptions Testing Series

Nov 3, 2021

Assumption #3: US leadership is indispensable to the health of the global order

By Christopher Preble

Experts often assume that US power is essential to global peace and prosperity, but need to question what role the United States can play in the global system among partners and allies.

Human Rights National Security

Past events

In the news

In the News

May 12, 2023

Garlauskas in War on the Rocks

On May 11, Markus Garlauskas was featured in War on the Rocks for his analysis on North Korea. This piece, which Garlauskas co-authored with Jonathan Corrado from the Korea Society and Rachel Minyoung Lee from the Open Nuclear Network, argues, “Emerging North Korea analysts should learn to read between the lines of propaganda, ditch their […]

Korea Nuclear Deterrence

In the News

May 3, 2023

Gilbert in StarTribune

On May 2, Lauren Gilbert was featured in StarTribune, discussing President Yoon’s recent state visit to the United States, an evolving US-ROK alliance, and the Washington Declaration. Gilbert explained that the Declaration is “a way of saying that even if South Korea doesn’t have its own nuclear weapons, the U.S. is there and ready to […]

Indo-Pacific Korea

In the News

May 2, 2023

Kroenig and Ashford debate responses to advancements in North Korean nuclear capabilities

On April 7, Foreign Policy published its biweekly “It’s Debatable” column featuring Scowcroft Center deputy director Matthew Kroenig and Emma Ashford assessing the latest news in international affairs.

Arms Control Korea

In the News

Apr 28, 2023

Garlauskas, Whitlark, and Taylor in Breaking Defense

On April 27, Markus Garlauskas, FD Nonresident Senior Fellow Rachel Whitlark, and IPSI Nonresident Fellow Jessica Taylor were featured in Breaking Defense for their comments in an Atlantic Council “Experts React” on a US-ROK nuclear-armed alliance.

Korea Nuclear Deterrence

In the News

Apr 28, 2023

Taylor in i

On April 28, IPSI Nonresident Fellow Jessica Taylor was featured in i news discussing the future of cooperative decision making with South Korea on nuclear deterrence as US elections approach.

Korea Nuclear Deterrence

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Forward Defense

Forward Defense, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, shapes the debate around the greatest military challenges facing the United States and its allies, and creates forward-looking assessments of the trends, technologies, and concepts that will define the future of warfare.