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Foreign and domestic perceptions of the rate of change in the US nuclear force structure and posture far outpace the changes themselves. This is contributing to a potentially dangerous gap between US declaratory nuclear policy—what is said publicly about nuclear strategy and forces—and "action policy "—the guidelines governing those forces in practice. A similar gap developed in the early 1960s as the Kennedy administration pursued its "flexible response" strategy. This article compares similarities and differences between today and the Kennedy era to argue that the decoupling of the rhetoric from the reality of US nuclear policy risks encouraging nuclear proliferation, intensifying strategic instability between the great powers, and weakening US alliances.