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CSDS leader provides perspective to USSTRATCOM Deterrence Symposium

  • Published
  • Center of Strategic Deterrence Studies Outreach Office

The director of the Air Force Center for Strategic Deterrence Studies, an academic research center under Air University’s Air War College, provided perspectives on deterrence education to a virtual forum hosted by U.S. Strategic Command in November.

Al Mauroni, CSDS director, took part in the session titled “Is Deterrence in the Cold War Applicable to the Multi-polar World,” moderated by Dr. Brad Roberts, director of the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The session also featured insights from Maj. Gen. John Nichols, deputy director of global operations at U.S. Strategic Command, and Ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa, professor of the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo. The master of ceremonies was USSTRATCOM’s Col. Michael Bonura.

More than 800 people registered for the forum’s seven panel discussions over a two-week period.

Deterrence, in brief, describes a posture in which an armed force discourages adversary attack through strong capability, demonstrated credibility and clear communication, leading an opponent to realize that the costs and risks of aggression would outweigh benefits. There are numerous categories of deterrence, such as general and tailored deterrence, minimal deterrence, and extended deterrence.

Mauroni’s panel focused on the differences between Cold War deterrence that centered on nuclear competition between the United States and the Soviet Union and the modern-day multi-polar environment that now includes Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Mauroni spoke on general tenets of deterrence, the evolution of deterrence theory, how presidential administrations have had different nuclear postures and how today’s military and civilian leaders need to understand the foundations of deterrence learned during the Cold War in order to apply them to nuclear deterrence strategy in the present day.

“It’s a mistake to think we had a single Cold War strategy. Every administration has had a different nuclear posture,” said Mauroni. He also highlighted the important contributions of deterrence theorists such as Bernard Brodie, Thomas Schelling and Herman Kahn, but he underscored that these theories have to be carefully applied to modern strategic environments.

Mauroni’s presentation also illustrated how numerous presidents each crafted a unique approach to deterrence.

“We had Truman with the containment of the Soviet Union, Eisenhower’s New Look, Kennedy and Johnson’s Flexible Response, Nixon and Ford with Essential Equivalence, Carter and the countervailing strategy. … Every administration had a different spin on this, a different nuclear posture,” he said.

“As we look at space deterrence, as we look at cyber deterrence, the question is not, ‘Do we need a new theory of deterrence?’ The deterrence theory that we developed during the Cold War still applies and the principles will still hold. We just need to look at them in the right context and tailor it to the right environment,” said Mauroni.

He enjoyed being part of the symposium’s dialogue on a vital national security topic.

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to join USSTRATCOM’s annual deterrence symposium, even in this restrictive environment,” he said. “The Air Force’s nuclear enterprise, to include the Air Force Global Strike Command and Headquarters Air Force A/10, is seeking Air University’s assistance in developing nuclear deterrence thought leaders. Our relationship with the USSTRATCOM Academic Alliance and participation in this annual symposium advance our ability to meet that objective.”

A link to the deterrence forum virtual sessions is here: (Mauroni spoke during Session 2).

For more information on CSDS, visit

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