Ian J. Harlow

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2006


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Lewis Irwin

Committee Member

Kent Moors


Homeland Secuirty, Nuclear Proliferation, Nuclear Terrorism, Nuclear Weapons, Policy Analysis, Public Policy, Terrorism


Directly following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States government initiated a self study to determine how it could better prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorist attacks within its boarders. After only a short time, the public policy response began to occur. The main question that this research attempted to address was if the United States government's public policy response, through public laws, was adequate and appropriate to address the threat of a terrorist attack on the United States involving nuclear weapons.

The research first addressed and categorized the types of threats that involved nuclear terrorism and its origins. The second portion of the research focused on the policy responses and public laws that have been adopted since 9/11 to address the threat of nuclear terrorism. These laws were signed into law from September 11, 2001 until January 1, 2005. The third phase of the research systematically analyzed the public laws that were identified in phase two to determine if they were appropriate, reasonable, and relevant to the threat of nuclear terrorism based on three separate factors. These factors included prevention and deterrence, protection, and response.

The findings suggest that there were no significant measures adopted to deter or prevent an act of nuclear terrorism. In some instances, the response to an attack involving nuclear weapons was addressed. Furthermore, the public policy response to 9/11 can best be characterized as reactive rather than proactive. In other words, the policy response was geared toward fighting the last war. Research also has indicated that the policy response adds additional layers of bureaucracy to homeland security. Based on the analysis conducted in this research, the United States government's public policy response to 9/11 was neither adequate nor appropriate to the threat of nuclear terrorism.