The Nuclear Football

Don’t Leave Home Without It.

If you look closely at photographs of the president you’ll notice there is a leather satchel suitcase never more than a few feet away. Inside the suitcase is the president’s nuclear “football.” If the United States were under a nuclear attack only the commander-in-chief has the authority to launch a retaliatory strike using the president’s unique authorization code on a small identification card. The “biscuit” allows the president to authenticate themselves and respond. Within the American strategic nuclear forces there are a multitude of checks and procedures to verify that a nuclear launch order is authentic. Ironically though there is no single check on the president’s authority to use nuclear weapons. That awesome power lies with the president and the president alone.

Discussion Questions:

1. Can you think of any reasons why it makes sense for the president alone to have the decision to use nuclear weapons?

2. What might be the advantages and disadvantages of involving members of Congress?


Photo/Image: Sheala Craighead, White House Photo