I Am former Secretary of Defense William Perry and nuclear policy think-tank director Tom Collina, ask us anything about Presidential nuclear authority!
Hi Reddit, former Secretary of Defense William Perry here for my third IAMA, this time I am joined by Tom Collina, the Policy Director at Ploughshares Fund.
I (William Perry) served as Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the Carter administration, and then as Secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration, and I have advised presidents all through the Obama administration. I oversaw the development of major nuclear weapons systems, such as the MX missile, the Trident submarine and the Stealth Bomber. My “offset strategy” ushered in the age of stealth, smart weapons, GPS, and technologies that changed the face of modern warfare. Today, my vision, as founder of the William J. Perry Project, is a world free from nuclear weapons.
Tom Collina is the Director of Policy at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation in Washington, DC. He has 30 years of nuclear weapons policy experience and has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was closely involved with successful efforts to end U.S. nuclear testing in 1992, extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995, ratify the New START Treaty in 2010, and enact the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.
Since the Truman administration, America has entrusted the power to order the launch of nuclear weapons solely in the hands of the President. Without waiting for approval from Congress or even the Secretary of Defense, the President can unleash America’s entire nuclear arsenal.
Right now, as our current Commander in Chief is undergoing treatment for COVID-19, potentially subjecting the President to reduced blood-oxygen levels and possible mood-altering side-effects from treatment medications, many people have begun asking questions about our nuclear launch policy.
As President Trump was flown to Walter Reed Medical Hospital for treatment, the "Football", the Presidential Emergency Satchel which allows the President to order a nuclear attack, flew with him. A nuclear launch order submitted through the Football can be carried out within minutes.
This year, I joined nuclear policy expert Tom Collina to co-author a new book, "The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump," uncovering the history of Presidential authority over nuclear weapons and outlining what we need to do to reduce the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe.
I have also created a new podcast, AT THE BRINK, detailing the behind-the-scenes stories about the worlds most powerful weapon. Hear the stories of how past unstable Presidents have been handled Episode 2: The Biscuit and The Football.
We're here to answer your all questions about Presidential nuclear authority; what is required to order a launch, how the "Football" works, and what we can do to create checks and balances on this monumental power.
Update: Thank you all for these fabulous questions. Tom and I are taking a break for a late lunch, but we will be back later to answer a few more questions so feel free to keep asking.
You can also continue the conversation with us on Twitter at @SecDef19 and @TomCollina. We believe that nuclear weapons policies affect the safety and security of the world, no matter who is in office, and we cannot work to lower the danger without an educated public conversation.
Update 2: We're back to answer a few more of your questions!