Nuclear “Hair Trigger” & First Use

The “button” can morph into a perverse temptation for an unstable leader. In 1974, during his impeachment proceedings, President Richard M. Nixon said to reporters: “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes, 70 million people will be dead.”

Worried about Nixon’s state of mind at the time, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger asked to be notified before any nuclear launch order from Nixon was executed.


‘Trump could launch 140 warheads in the time it takes to write 140 characters.’


‘President Trump is able to launch, within minutes, one or one thousand nuclear warheads without any vote, any check, or even any serious deliberation.’


Via the LA Times


Hair-Trigger Alert in 2017


Launch-on-Warning Plans


Nuclear Policy with a Tweet


Time to Take Nuclear Weapons Off ‘Hair-Trigger’ Alert


Via Union of Concerned Scientists


Via Scientific American


Via the Washington Post


Via the NY Times


Via Strategic Demands


Reconsider First Use of Nuclear Weapons





Upon introduction of this legislation, Mr. Lieu issued the following statement:

“Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the President could launch a massive, potentially civilization-ending military strike without authorization from Congress. Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to the people’s representatives. A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional. I am proud to introduce the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016 with Sen. Markey to realign our nation’s nuclear weapons launch policy with the Constitution.”

Upon introduction of this legislation, Senator Markey issued the following statement:

“Nuclear war poses the gravest risk to human survival. Unfortunately, by maintaining the option of using nuclear weapons first in a conflict, U.S. policy increases the risk of unintended nuclear escalation. The President should not use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack. This legislation enshrines this simple principle into law. I thank Rep. Lieu for his partnership on this common-sense bill during this critical time in our nation’s history.”

Praise for the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2016

William J. Perry, Former Secretary of Defense“During my period as Secretary of Defense, I never confronted a situation, or could even imagine a situation, in which I would recommend that the President make a first strike with nuclear weapons—understanding that such an action, whatever the provocation, would likely bring about the end of civilization.  I believe that the legislation proposed by Congressman Lieu and Senator Markey recognizes that terrible reality.  Certainly a decision that momentous for all of civilization should have the kind of checks and balances on Executive powers called for by our Constitution.”


Nuclear Threat Initiative