Will Congress Allow Trump Administration to Deploy New, More “Usable” Nuclear Weapons?

Statement by Stephen Young, Union of Concerned Scientists Global Security Program

Published Nov 1, 2019

WASHINGTON (November 1, 2019)—The House version of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act would block President Trump from putting new lower-yield, more “usable” nuclear weapons on submarines. The Senate version of the bill would not. A conference committee to resolve differences between the two versions is reportedly leaning toward the Senate position in the final bill, which would be a foolhardy decision, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Stephen Young, Washington representative at the UCS Global Security Program.

“Deploying these new, lower-yield nuclear weapons would make a nuclear war more likely. Their low yield reduces the threshold to using nuclear weapons in a conflict, which in a crisis would likely escalate to the ultimate catastrophe, a nuclear war.

“We do not want Russia or any other potential adversary to believe that the United States would engage in a limited nuclear war or believes that a nuclear war would remain limited. That is complete folly—and is dangerous.

“Moreover, firing a lower-yield nuclear weapon from one of its submarines—revealing its location—would put at risk the United States’ most valuable strategic asset. U.S. submarines carry the bulk of its nuclear forces and are the invulnerable cornerstone of U.S. deterrent capability. It would be beyond foolhardy to expose their location to engage in a so-called limited nuclear exchange.

“The House version of the bill would defuse international tensions and strengthen national security by blocking the deployment of these unnecessary, destabilizing weapons. The conference committee should see the wisdom of that decision.”