There is no more consequential decision for a president than ordering a nuclear strike. Once launched, a nuclear-armed missile cannot be recalled or aborted. Today, the strategic environment and threats that could lead to the use of a nuclear weapon have changed from the Cold War, yet much of U.S. policy with respect to nuclear use authority remains grounded in that past era, increasing the risk of an accident or a mistake.
Recently, public and Congressional attention has focused on the legal authorities and limitations, as well as the process, that a U.S. president would confront when making the grave decision of whether to use a nuclear weapon. Please join us as NTI releases its latest report, The President and Nuclear Weapons: Authorities, Limits, and Process, authored by Mary B. DeRosa and Ashley Nicolas, which identifies the key legal questions relevant to a president’s decision and summarizes the state of the law and the relevant process.
The seminar will also mark the release of a companion paper authored by NTI co-chairs former Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz and former Senator Sam Nunn, The President and Nuclear Weapons: Implications of Sole Authority in Today’s World, which offers ideas to improve and strengthen the process for decision-making and consulting Congress regarding the potential use of nuclear weapons.
Mary B. DeRosa is a Professor from Practice at Georgetown University Law Center, where she focuses on national security law. Previously, DeRosa served as deputy assistant and deputy counsel to the president and National Security Council legal adviser in the Obama administration. She has also served as chief counsel for national security for the Senate Judiciary Committee and as special counsel to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense.
Ashley Nicolas is a 2019 Graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. At GULC, Nicolas was a Global Law Scholar, president of the GULC Military Law Society, and student editor-in-chief of the Journal of National Security Law and Policy. Prior to law school, she served as a U.S. Army military intelligence officer.