Can The Vice President Launch Nukes?

With the increased threat of nuclear war caused by changing geo-political situations across the globe, it makes one wonder how prepared the United States is to tackle a nuclear war. It is common knowledge that the US President has the authority to order a nuclear strike.

But what happens in the absence of the president? Does the vice-president have the authority to launch nukes? With multiple enemy countries, it is important to have such things sorted out.

Can the vice-president launch nukes?

The answer is ‘Yes’ that the vice-president can launch nukes. It will apparently happen in the absence of the president. As a matter of fact, this recently happened when President Joe Biden underwent a colonoscopy procedure. As he was put under anesthesia, the nuclear strike command was briefly transferred to the Vice-President Kamala Harris.

The entire procedure took around 85 minutes. And during this time, Kamala had the nuclear strike command with her. This was the first time a US woman commanded the nuclear strike system, even though it occurred for a brief period only.

Terms and conditions apply

As per the United States constitution, the President is the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. With these powers, the United States President has the authority to order a nuclear strike. However, the President cannot take such major decisions on his own. There is a two-man rule in place, where the president’s nuclear strike order has to be verified by the secretary of defense.

This is not to curtail the powers of the US President. Rather, it is just a way to ensure that the order is genuinely from the United States President. Such a system has been built because the President and the secretary of defense may not always be present in the same room. When in the White House, the president can order a nuclear strike from the highly secure ‘Situation Room’.

When travelling, the US president can use the ‘nuclear football’ and ‘biscuit’ to order a nuclear strike. The nuclear football is essentially a black attache case, which contains the codes needed to order a nuclear strike. The ‘biscuit’ is a secure keycard, which is used to identify the United States President. Both the ‘nuclear football’ and the ‘biscuit’ will be needed to launch a nuclear strike. A backup of these components is available with the vice-president as well.

US military can veto a nuclear strike

Various checks and balances have been put in place to prevent the misuse of nuclear weapons. While the president can give the order for nuclear strike, the US military has the power to veto it. This will happen if the US military feels that the order is illegal.

There is also a provision in the 25th Amendment, wherein the cabinet may intervene and cancel the president’s nuclear strike order. All such checks and balances are applicable on the vice-president as well.

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