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What is Nuclear Football and how is it related to the US President?

Tulika Tandon

The Pentagon has recently said that it would be evaluating the safety protocols surrounding the President's nuclear football. This contains the codes that may be needed for a strike. This happened after one of the briefcases nearly came in range of the rioters storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021. 

What is Nuclear Football?

The nuclear football is a briefcase which contains the things to be used by the President of the United States so that he can authorise any nuclear attack while he/she is away from the nuclear command centers.

The President of the United States is accompanied by military aid, always carrying a football consisting of launch codes for nuclear weapons.

Steps to launch the Nuclear Weapon in USA:

The President has the whole- sole authority to launch the nuclear weapon. For this he follows the following steps

i) Meeting with the advisors: The President meets the advisors or can conduct it over a phone call. The final word of those who are in the field is also important. Moreover they update him/her about the ground reality

ii)Launch order given: It is to be given by a secure station or a portable nuclear football. The president's ID is confirmed and the launch codes are sent to the Pentagon's war room. 

iii) The order is out: The War Room at Pentagon has encrypted launch orders that include targets, time to launch and authentication codes to unlock missiles.

iv) Launch Preparation: Launch crew confirms authentication codes and enters target information to unlock the missiles. However the order of the President can be affected by the Defence Secretary's disagreement and the vice President can pass a motion under Section 4 of Amendment 25 declaring the President incapable of carrying out his/her duties. Only in such cases the nuclear attack can be halted.

v)The nuclear weapon is launched

What happened on January 6, 2021?

It was in the United States Capitol in Washington DC that the Congress men were attacked by a mob supporting the ex President Donald Trump. They wished to overturn his defeat in the presidential elections by disrupting the joint session of the Congress approving the victory of Joe Biden by counting of the Electoral votes. 

The Pentagon after that said that it would evaluate the extent to which the Pentagon officials could detect and respond in case the Presidential Emergency Satchel were lost or compromised with. As on that day Vice President Mike Pence was accompanied by the military aide carrying a backup nuclear football, the Pentagon wishes to run such a test. 

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