The idea is simple: we don’t need to use nuclear weapons first. We can protect ourselves and our allies without having to start a nuclear war. A “No First Use” policy would make clear that the purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal is deterrence, not nuclear war-fighting. A policy like this is just common sense. As President Reagan said, “A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” Implementing a No First Use policy would make America and its allies safer by increasing clarity on how and when the United States would use nuclear weapons, and would reduce nuclear risks worldwide. Below, you’ll find a quick explainer as well as additional resources on No First Use. You can also view and download our factsheet.
What an NFU policy would do:
A No First Use (NFU) policy would make it the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first, which means that nuclear weapons would only be used to respond to a nuclear attack against the United States or our allies. It would formalize that nuclear weapons are only for deterrence, not nuclear war-fighting.
An NFU policy would lower risks by assuring nuclear-armed adversaries that they don’t have to worry the United States will use nuclear weapons first during a crisis.
An NFU policy is also the logical extension of the powers given to Congress in the Constitution. Only Congress can declare war, and the unprovoked first use of a nuclear weapon would most certainly be a declaration of war.
What an NFU policy would not do:
An NFU policy would not limit the United States from taking retaliatory action against someone who launches a nuclear strike against it or its allies.
An NFU policy would not change the President’s ability to use conventional forces first under warranted circumstances.
An NFU policy is not about one particular President; it is about the United States taking steps to reduce global nuclear risks.
What is happening with NFU Policy?
Members of Congress have introduced multiple bills that would directly or effectively implement an NFU policy. Even if these bills garner widespread support in Congress, the current White House is unlikely to support this policy change. But this is not an issue that is confined to Washington. In fact, cities and states across the country have passed resolutions encouraging the federal government to support an NFU policy. Public support and action can help make an NFU policy a reality.
You have a voice on whether the United States should ever start a nuclear war. Get the latest on NFU by following @NoFirstUse on Twitter.
Rep. Ted Lieu: There’s no way the framers would have allowed this kind of system
In a podcast episode from 2017, Rep. Ted Lieu explains why he introduced a No First Use bill, and why this issue should matter to all Americans.
Frequently Asked Questions
The idea behind No First Use is simple, but the policy can seem complex. We answer the most common questions our experts receive in our FAQs and refute some of the most common claims in our myths vs. realities guide.
Recent Analysis on No First Use
- The Big Red Button October 23, 2019
- Press the Button: The Impeachment Edition October 1, 2019
- Added Ambiguity Over India’s No First Use Policy is Cause for Concern August 22, 2019
- No First Use and the Myth of ‘Tying the President’s Hands’ August 16, 2019
- What Gov. Bullock Should Know About No First Use August 1, 2019
- Op-ed: The US Should Be Strengthening Deterrence. The Opposite Is Happening. May 16, 2019
- Op-ed: Why it’s time to negotiate a mutual No First Use policy with North Korea April 15, 2019
- Elizabeth Warren wants to ban the US from using nuclear weapons first February 11, 2019
- Executive Director Tierney: We have a thermonuclear monarchy January 29, 2019
- Congressman Ted Lieu on Nuclear First-Strike May 20, 2017