I am trying to hunt down a short story written as a series of memos between government agencies about how to use leftover nuclear warheads. The suggestions are completely ridiculous (urban renewal, etc) and the story culminates in someone sending in his resignation. My dad thinks he read it in Analog in the 1970s... but he's not sure. Help me identify the story?

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  • A bureaucracy can come up with, and actually implement anything (maybe there is a pithy description for that? "The tyranny of small decisions by people with no skin in the game" or something analogous). That's why BuSab was invented ... in another universe. Motto: "In Lieu of Red Tape." Jun 8, 2020 at 12:43

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"Request for Proposal" by Anthony R. Lewis was first published in the November 1972 Analog. It is written in the form of interoffice memos about using nuclear warheads for slum clearance and urban renewal:

The obvious solution to all these problems is the selective use of low-yield tactical nuclear devices as the major components of a modern, effective slum-clearance and riot-control program. It is expected that sufficient devices can be transferred from the Department of Defense, at cost, in the initial stages of the program. Further downstream, alternate sources for the devices can be sought on a competitive bid basis, thereby decreasing costs.

One official (Chief, Readjustment Division) resigns:

Since I see no possible way to prevent this program from being actualized in my present position, I wish to tender my resignation from the Department.

That resignation is not the culmination of the story, which ends with the "request for proposals" (ellipsis in original):


The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Robert F. Kennedy Research Center, solicits your organization for a proposal for a study aimed at defining the requirements for, and the economics of, the use of low-yield nuclear devices in the optimization of inner-city interaction stabilization.

This solicitation is covered by the following documents . . .

This story has been reprinted in several anthologies, among them Space Mail, an anthology of sci-fi stories told in the form of letters or memos, which was combined with another anthology (The Future in Question) to form Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Treasury.

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