Graduation Year


Document Type

Senior Thesis


Bachelor of Arts

Primary Major

Political Science

Second Major

Graphic Design

Thesis Advisor

Alison Howard, MA


Given the rapid development and ease of access to technology, the threat of extremist organizations utilizing cyberspace as a means to target critical American strategic infrastructure is of increasing concern. The risk posed by the acquisition of fissile material, sabotage, or use of a nuclear device by an extremist organization has been exasperated due to technological development outpacing strategy. Despite policy-makers’ attempts to protect the public from cyber-attacks and nuclear terrorism, the federal policies in place have failed to account for the continual evolution of technology and the gaps in security that this advancement brings. Through examining documents from congressional and bureaucratic agencies using content analysis, this study examines whether or not policymakers, congressional or bureaucratic, use deterrence theory when they make policy, suggestions, rules, and guidelines. This thesis asks how U.S. policy regarding nuclear terrorism has changed given a rise in cyberthreats? This thesis also asks a second question: Which federal agency is most capable of dealing with cyberthreats concerning nuclear terrorism? The findings of this research concluded that as cyberthreats continued to develop, policymakers using deterrence theory shifted to using previous waves of deterrence theory, primarily dealing with rivalry and competitive threats. In addition, this research finds that intelligence agencies are the most capable federal agencies in proving guidelines and informing future policymakers.