We call on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:
Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first
The United States still reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first. This increases the chance that a conflict could escalate to nuclear war. The United States should instead declare that it will never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and would use them only in response to a nuclear attack.
Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack
The president has unchecked authority to order the use of nuclear weapons, either first or in response to a nuclear attack. To order a launch, the president could simply notify the military of his/her decision. The president would likely consult advisers, but this is not required, and no one has the authority to countermand a legal launch order. This system is risky and unjustified. There are practical ways to include multiple decision-makers in authorizing the use of nuclear weapons, and the United States should adopt such changes.
Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert
The United States still deploys several hundred nuclear warheads on missiles in underground silos, ready to launch within minutes of a presidential order. This alert status — called hair-trigger alert — increases the chance of a launch in response to a false alarm. There have been numerous close calls over the past 40 years due to both human and technical errors, and keeping missiles on high alert increases the danger of accidental war. There is no compelling rationale for maintaining this option, and the United States should remove its missiles from hair-trigger alert.
Cancelling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons
The United States will spend over a trillion dollars in the next 30 years to replace its entire nuclear arsenal, including the bombers, missiles, and submarines that deliver the weapons. This tremendous investment demonstrates that nuclear weapons are still central to US military policy. The new weapons will have enhanced capabilities Instead, the United States should simply refurbishing existing weapons where possible, rather than enhancing their capabilities or building new ones.
Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals
It should be the highest national security goal of the U.S. government to seek the elimination of nuclear weapons, the only way to guarantee that they are never used. The United States — like Britain, China, France, and Russia — pledged under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to eliminate its nuclear arsenal. Non-nuclear-weapons states under the NPT are increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress toward meeting this obligation. One result is the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which makes it illegal to “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The United States should honor its obligations under the NPT and begin negotiations with the other nuclear armed states for a time bound, verifiable, enforceable agreement to dismantle their nuclear weapons so they can join the TPNW.