Don’t Forget the Nukes! Nuclear Security Fades from U.S. National Conversation

A nuclear powerplant can be seen from a distance. White smoke pours out of the smoke stacks. The sun is setting.

The Arms Control Association’s new report Empowering Congress on Nuclear Security: Blueprints for a New Generation presents a stunning paradox: despite an increase in the use of nuclear and radioactive material around the world, nuclear security has fallen from the U.S. national conversation. Traditionally, nuclear security has been a bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill, where congressional leadership has worked tirelessly to support oversight of foreign nuclear programs and international cooperation aimed at nonproliferation. However, the report states that recently, “leadership is largely ceded to the executive branch where competing interests increasingly sideline this critical issue.”

In this study, the Arms Control Association collaborated with Partnership for a Secure America to examine current congressional staff perspectives on nuclear security, as well as explore past congressional leadership in this field. The report offers strategic and near-term steps Congress can take to address this gap in congressional leadership. Some of the recommendations include:

  • “Requiring the Office of Management and Budget to annually prepare a report summarizing the U.S. budget for nonproliferation and nuclear security programs.”
  • “Holding more congressional hearings on nuclear security, which have been few and far between.”
  • “Calling for more regular Executive Branch briefings on nuclear security and organizing more frequent congressional visits to domestic and foreign sites housing nuclear and radiological materials.”
  • “Expanding the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear security and nonproliferation research and development efforts.”
  • “Securing the most vulnerable, highest-risk radiological materials around the world in five years.”
The HSDL offers many additional resources related to nuclear policy in our special featured topic Nuclear Weapons, and in our series Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Annual Report to Congress. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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