This paper serves to explore the current state of preparedness for nuclear war that is held by the United States. This research project seeks to answer two main questions: what preparedness for nuclear war is, as well as if the United States is prepared. This case study considered preparedness to be a combination of multiple factors: the state of the nuclear arsenals of the U.S> and potential adversaries, the attitude towards the use of nuclear weapons, the global threat environment, nuclear conflict theory, and the defensive capabilities of the United States to detect and intercept nuclear projectiles targeting their assets and territories. The research showed that the original nuclear theories, Deterrence Theory and Mutually Assured Destruction, are still the dominant theories in use across the globe, however the United States has shifted its attitude towards the use of nuclear weaponry, with the Trump Administration stating it is willing to engage in nuclear conflict in defense of its allies. The American nuclear arsenal is aging, with the majority of it being constructed in the 1980s based on designs from previous decades. Compared to potential nuclear adversaries such as Russia, China, and North Korea, the U.S. has maintained an aging arsenal without developing new capabilities. The research shows that the United States, according to the definition used in this analysis, is not prepared for an extended nuclear conflict.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 11-30-2020


Brian K. Simpkins

Mentor Department Affiliation


Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level