Case #607.3

Press and the Neutron Bomb: Abridged

Publication Date: January 01, 1983
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In June 1977, a page-one Washington Post story disclosed that the Carter administration budget contained funding for production of enhanced radiation warheads--the so-called neutron bomb. In April 1978, following mass protests in several West European nations against the neutron bomb, and heated debate within NATO, President Carter decided to defer deployment and production of neutron weapons. It was subsequently reported that Carter's controversial, and much maligned, decision was due partly to his reluctance to embrace a bomb that the public understood to "kill people but leave buildings intact." The case describes that year-long episode in detail, with particular attention to the administration's efforts at damage control. While the unabridged case is too long for most teaching purposes, two shorter versions are available. The seven-page "summary introduction" is a self-contained case designed for use in executive programs.

Learning Objective:
The major lesson of the case is the need for public officials to manage the press no less carefully and affirmatively than they manage other parts of their environment. The longer (but still abridged) case has been used to help students think about the different components of the media as organizations that have standard operating procedures, missions and cultures, just as other organizations do.

Other Details

Case Author:
David Whitman
Faculty Lead:
Jonathan Moore, and Marty Linsky
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States