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Bicameral Delegation Urges President Biden to Reduce Military Role of U.S Nuclear Weapons in Upcoming Nuclear Posture Review

July 22, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (VA-08) and John Garamendi (CA-03), and Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, led 17 of their colleagues in calling on President Joseph R. Biden to actively guide the formation of the Department of Defense-led Nuclear Posture Review. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) will be part of an integrated National Defense Strategy that the Department of Defense says will be completed by early next year. The lawmakers urged the Administration to consider a series of bold actions that would fulfill the President’s pledge to reduce the role of “nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.” 

 “Mr. President, as a United States Senator and then as Vice President, you were a party to every major nuclear weapons debate of the past five-decades. From bolstering the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, to building European support for the Intermediate-Nuclear Forces Treaty, to securing votes for ratification of the New START Treaty, you have consistently been on the right side of history. Your Administration’s NPR is a watershed moment where you can reject a 21st century arms race and make bold decisions to lead us towards a future where nuclear weapons no longer threaten all humanity,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to President Biden.

Specifically, the lawmakers called for President Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review to:  

  • Adjust U.S. declaratory policy to assign a reduced role for U.S. nuclear weapons, consistent with the President’s past stated view that: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats — 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.”
  • Direct the Department of Defense to include in its proposed target list a breakdown of the damage expectancy, civilian casualties, and climatic and humanitarian consequences stemming from nuclear weapons use.
  • Examine the number and types of new weapons needed to deter nuclear attack, taking into account recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to consider deferring or cancelling certain nuclear weapons modernization programs.  
  • Complete independent review of the proposed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent – that looks into the technical feasibility and comparative cost savings of life-extending the current Minuteman III ICBM.
  • Eliminate two of President Trump’s new types of nuclear weapons: the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) under development and the low-yield W-76(2) warhead already deployed on U.S. ballistic missile submarines.
  • Commit to pursuing robust diplomacy with Russia and China on arms control through U.S.-Russia bilateral strategic stability talks, which build upon an extended New START Treaty, and starting a new bilateral U.S.-China strategic stability dialogue that builds towards the eventual conclusion of arms control measures that reduce the risk of miscalculation.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.

Joining the co-chairs in signing the letter are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Katie Porter (CA-45), Bill Foster (IL-11), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), IIhan Omar (MN-05), and Ami Bera (CA-07).  

In April, the co-chairs of the bicameral Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group wrote to President Biden urging his Administration to re-engage with Russia on the same type of “regular, extensive, comprehensive dialogue” on strategic issues that Presidents Biden and Putin kicked off in Geneva, Switzerland in June and which are reportedly set to continue soon.