Three Heads Are Better Than One

How to Limit the President’s Single-handed Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons

Published Dec 17, 2019

Cover of a fact sheet on sole authority

The president of the United States currently has the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons without consulting anyone else. The existing system is dangerous, allowing a reckless or impulsive president to issue an order that could start a nuclear war. Once launched, a nuclear-armed missile cannot be recalled or ordered to self-destruct; it is on a committed path to destruction.

Investing a single person with this degree of responsibility is unnecessary. The Federal Emergency Management Agency continuously tracks the locations of officials in the presidential line of succession and can communicate with them at a moment’s notice. This same tracking and communication system could allow the decision to launch nuclear weapons to involve consent from additional people.

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