William W. Kaufmann, 90, a political scientist and Pentagon adviser who helped shape Cold War nuclear defense strategy and later became a leading critic of Defense Department spending, died Dec. 14 at an Alzheimer's care center in Woburn, Mass.

Mr. Kaufmann was an emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former national security expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He served as a special assistant to every defense secretary from 1961 to 1981, from Robert McNamara to Harold Brown.

In 1986, the journal Foreign Affairs called him "the man who may well be the most knowledgeable individual in this country on the defense budgets of the past quarter-century." But it was his earlier work on nuclear policy that launched his reputation.

For much of the early Cold War, the U.S. war plan was all-out nuclear attack in response to any potential Soviet armed threat no matter how trivial. Mr. Kaufmann was among the leading defense experts to challenge that plan successfully.

"He provided the intellectual rationale for building up the U.S. Army in Western Europe, attempting to provide a conventional defense against a Soviet threat - a notion that at the time was thought to be infeasible," said Fred Kaplan, a journalist specializing in national security.

In 1960, he proposed what became known as "counterforce" strategy, which unlike massive retaliation would fire its first volley of nuclear weapons at Soviet bomber bases, submarine pens and other defense targets but avoid Soviet cities. The hope was that a limited initial response would bring the war to a resolution shy of annihilation. - Washington Post