On April 15, 2021, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Adam Smith reintroduced the No First Use Act (H.R.2603 & S.1219), which would officially establish that the United States policy is to not use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare first.
The United States does not currently have a pledge or policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) expands the range of significant non-nuclear strategic attacks to which the U.S. may respond with use of nuclear weapons to include cyberattacks and chemical and biological warfare.
No First Use is a common sense piece of legislation that is vital for reducing the risk of stumbling into a nuclear war through miscalculation or misunderstanding. “Threatening to use nuclear weapons first makes America less safe because it increases the chances of a miscalculation or an accident,” says Senator Warren, “There are no winners in a nuclear war, and the US should never start one.”
Representative Smith, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, also sees this policy as a crucial step for restoring U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation issues, saying, “Codifying that deterring nuclear use is the sole purpose of our nuclear arsenal strengthens U.S. national security and would renew U.S. leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.”
President Biden has also voiced support for the policy in the past. In 2017, then Vice-President Biden said, “It’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary. Or make sense. President Obama and I are confident we can deter—and defend ourselves and our Allies against—non-nuclear threats through other means.” Implementing No First Use would also fall in line with President Biden’s current national security strategy, where his administration has committed to, “take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”
A coalition of groups has called upon Congress to legislate – and the President to declare – that the United States will neither initiate nor threaten to initiate the first use of Nuclear Weapons. PSR is sponsoring an upcoming conference, Prohibiting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons, focused on the importance of passing No First Use. If you would like to learn more about this important issue and how you can help push policy makers to support this policy, register and attend the conference digitally on May 15, 2021 at 12:30 PM eastern time.
If you’re already feeling motivated to get No First Use signed into law, reach out to your representative, urge them to cosponsor the No First Use Act, and use the template below to remind them that there are no winners in a nuclear war, and the U.S. should never start one.