Nuclear Weapons

Photo: Didimouman

End Hair-Trigger Alert

Accidents happen. They shouldn't lead to nuclear war.

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What’s at Stake

Times have changed. The defining force behind U.S. nuclear weapons policy—the Soviet Union—hasn’t existed for over 20 years. In its place are terrorism and other modern conflicts, none of which are solved by nuclear weapons.

Despite this, the United States still keeps hundreds of thermonuclear warheads—each many times more destructive than the bomb at Hiroshima—ready to be launched within minutes. This “hair-trigger alert” is a 1950's-era relic, leftover from the days of high-stakes nuclear brinkmanship.

But hair-trigger alert is a risky policy to inherit. From faulty computer chips to misinterpreted radar signals, human and technical mistakes have caused dozens of safety failures and close calls. An accidental or unauthorized missile launch could kill millions of people—and trigger a Russian launch that could kill many millions more.

Taking U.S. weapons off hair-trigger alert would immediately remove this risk. It would increase the safety of all Americans while maintaining a strong and credible U.S. defense. It would also encourage Russia to take its missiles off hair-trigger alert.

As Commander-in-Chief, President Obama can independently end hair-trigger alert. Like George W. Bush before him, he promised he would do so during his campaign. Military officials, politicians, and scientists have called for an end to this absurd and dangerous policy—but it hasn’t happened.

You can help. Remind the president of his promise to end hair-trigger alert and help keep the nation safe!

Solutions for a Safer World

With the right policy shifts on nuclear weapons, terrorism, and related issues, we can ensure that good science helps keep the United States safe.

Remove hair-trigger alert

Cold War-era policies shouldn’t determine how we manage nuclear weapons today—especially when those policies create undue risk.

Learn more about hair-trigger alert >

Change U.S. nuclear weapons policy

Hair-trigger alert isn’t the only outdated policy. Significant arms reductions and a “sole use” policy for nuclear weapons will significantly enhance U.S. security.

Learn more about nuclear weapons policy >

Prevent nuclear terrorism

Some countries “reprocess” used fuel from nuclear power plants, creating material that’s usable in nuclear weapons. Avoiding this unnecessary step both domestically and abroad is crucial for preventing nuclear terrorism.

Learn more about nuclear terrorism >

Re-evaluate missile defense

U.S. missile defense is expensive, ineffective, and may undermine national security. Not expanding missile defense sites in the United States—and demanding better testing and accountability—will improve U.S. security.

Learn more about U.S. missile defense >

Strengthen relations with China

Peaceful relationships depend on good information, not political rhetoric or hyperbole. Clearly communicating U.S. and Chinese intentions is essential for maintaining a cooperative relationship.

Learn more about U.S.-China relations >

Enhance space security

With more satellites in orbit than ever before, avoiding space-based conflicts is a top priority. Smart planning and thoughtful safeguarding—not weaponization—will protect U.S. interests in space.

Learn more about enhancing space security >

Summer Symposium

Our annual summer symposium brings together young scientists from across the globe to discuss international security and arms control issues. Topics include nuclear weapons, proliferation, verification, missile defense, and more.

Learn more about our symposium and related lectures on global security >

Get Involved

  • Today, the United States keeps nuclear missiles on high alert, ready to be fired in a matter of minutes. Tell President Obama to take our missiles off hair-trigger alert and make us all safer.

  • Get involved in your community

    Share the word about nuclear weapons—every voice helps!