Statement from Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn on Nuclear Use Authority

“There is no more consequential decision for a President than ordering a nuclear strike. 76 years after President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons to end World War II, the final decision to use a U.S. nuclear weapon remains in the president’s hands alone.

“Executive Branch policies regarding the potential use of a nuclear weapon should be strengthened to put guardrails around the president’s “sole authority” to order the use of nuclear weapons. Clear presidential guidance that sets out a process by which the president will receive thorough and timely advice to inform that decision should be a top priority of the Biden administration.

“The core of this new guidance should be that any order by the president to use a nuclear weapon when the decision-making time allows shall involve consultation with specified officials in the Executive Branch and Congress. Such guidance could be written so as not to call in to question either Executive or Legislative Branch powers or authorities and could be reinforced in legislation. While drafting such a law, Congress could conduct a careful review of the severe erosion of its constitutional responsibility to declare war—and investigate how the War Powers Act has practically ceased to function and might be remedied.

“Taking steps now that could increase confidence in the process for considering the use of nuclear weapons can substantially reduce nuclear risks while maintaining the security benefits of nuclear deterrence as long as nuclear weapons exist.”

For additional information:

The President and Nuclear Weapons: Authorities, Limits, and Process by Mary B. DeRosa and Ashley Nicolas

The President and Nuclear Weapons: Implications of Sole Authority in Today’s World by Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn

CONTACT: Cathy Gwin, 202-270-5942, [email protected]

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