Neglecting Nuclear Security in the 2016 Election

Stimson Spotlight

Neglecting Nuclear Security in the 2016 Election

By Jeff Murphy and Chris Kruckenberg: 

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once said, “[W]hen you’re asked what keeps you awake at night, it’s the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear.”

He isn’t the only public servant to feel this way; nuclear threats have haunted US leaders since the United States used the first atomic weapons and realized others could do the same. These fears are not totally unfounded: A team from the Government Accountability Officerecently succeeded in procuring ingredients for a dirty bomb within the United States, and would-be terrorists could possibly do the same. Recent administrations have focused on this issue, perhaps none more than that of Barack Obama. But are the 2016 presidential campaigns putting nuclear security on the back burner? Despite their public safety theme, Republican National Convention speakers never mentioned nuclear security issues outside of the Iran nuclear deal, and the party platform only indirectly touches on nonproliferation.Democratic National Convention speakers primarily focused on questioning the wisdom of giving the nuclear codes to the opposing candidate, but at least devoted a section of their party platform to nuclear nonproliferation.

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Photo credit: Chris Miller via Flickr