The President’s authority to use nuclear weapons — which is the subject of a congressional hearing today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — was addressed in several recent publications of the Congressional Research Service.
A new CRS Legal Sidebar addresses the unresolved question: Can Congress Limit the President’s Power to Launch Nuclear Weapons?
A detailed new CRS memorandum examines “Legislation Limiting the President’s Power to Use Nuclear Weapons: Separation of Powers Implications.”
See also Defense Primer: President’s Constitutional Authority with Regard to the Armed Forces, CRS In Focus.
The uncertain scope of presidential authority to order the use of nuclear weapons was identified as a serious policy problem in 1984 by the late Jeremy J. Stone, then-president of the Federation of American Scientists. In an article published in Foreign Policy at the time, he concluded that “presidential first use [of nuclear weapons] is unlawful.”