If Donald Trump wins the White House, would you want him to have sole control over the nuclear weapons launch process? Hell, no.
Recent polls show the GOP candidate is likely to lose by a landslide. But Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) plans to introduce a bill that would keep those tiny little Trump fingers away from the nuclear weapons launch codes anyway.
In his Aug. 3 press release, the congressman from Los Angeles declared:
‘The erratic and impulsive behavior of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has highlighted the structural dangers of America’s nuclear weapons launch protocols. Having taught the Law of War when I served on active duty, and as a graduate of Air War College, it is clear to me that the traditional checks and balances on the Executive branch do not apply when it comes to nuclear weapons. This process needs to be fixed.’
Although the nuclear weapons launch process is far more complicated than people think, and the president often knows things the rest of us don’t, there still is a scary lack of accountability.
‘The President does not need approval from Congress or the courts to launch nuclear weapons. All the President needs is the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense, who is appointed by the President. ‘
Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate, there isn’t a whole lot getting done. But for Ted Lieu, having just two people in control of the nuclear weapons launch process is terrifying and needs to be changed.
‘When Congress comes back into session, I plan to introduce legislation that requires the concurrence of leaders in Congress—who are not beholden to the President—before a nuclear strike can be launched. We can no longer have the fate of civilization depend on just two people in the Executive Branch.’
How does the nuclear weapons launch process work?
So what exactly are the steps involved in a nuclear weapons launch? Raymond Lockey, who says he’s a former adviser to the US Congressional Advisory Board on Security, gave an overview on Quora.
- The president, as Commander-In-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, gives the order with the Secretary of Defense’s consent.
- A military officer gives him or her the nuclear weapons launch codes from the White House’s basement’s “war room” or another military facility with secure communications.
- The launch codes get sent over a “special secure channel” to the field officers charged with our “nuclear assets,” along with Army, Air Force, and naval commanders.
- Thermonuclear bombs must be transported, but cruise missiles and ballistic missiles aboard navy ships are ready to go.
- In underground silos and on U.S. naval vessels, “it takes two officers in command holding the activation keys necessary to be turned simultaneously to actually start the launch.
In addition, Derek Muller, host of the YouTube channel Veritasium, took a tour Titan Missile Museum in Sahuarita, Arizona. Chuck Penson, a historian and archivist, walked Muller through the nuclear weapons launch code process for the missile explaining:
‘The idea behind Titan II was to instill enough fear in the mind of the enemy to cause them to think twice about launching an attack against us’
Here’s the video from Derek Muller’s tour.
Here’s the PDF with the press release on reforming the nuclear weapons launch process from Ted Lieu’s office.
Featured image: Kris Connor via Getty Images.