This bill — known as the Hold the Low-Yield Nuclear Explosive (LYNE) Act — would prohibit the provision of funds for the research, development, production, and deployment of the Trident D5 low-yield nuclear warhead.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on Armed ServicesStrategic ForcesIntroducedSeptember 17th, 2018
- house Committees
What is House Bill H.R. 6840?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 6840
In-Depth: Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced this bill to prohibit the research, development, production, and deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles:
“There’s no such thing as a low-yield nuclear war. Use of any nuclear weapon, regardless of its killing power, could be catastrophically destabilizing. It opens the door for severe miscalculation and could drag the U.S. and our allies into a devastating nuclear conflict. That’s why [we] introduced the Hold the LYNE Act, to ensure we won’t lower our standards for launching a nuclear weapon.”
Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who sponsored the Senate version of this bill, observes that no nuclear weapon is safe, and argues that low-yield nuclear weapons in fact have the potential to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons, increasing the risk of entering the U.S. into nuclear war:
“Developing a ‘low-yield’ nuclear warhead for America’s ballistic missile submarine fleet is the height of fiscal and political folly. There is no military requirement for this weapon. Its indistinguishability from any other submarine-launched nuclear weapon risks a miscalculation. Its development is just a further example of how the Trump administration is surrendering decades of American leadership that have helped move the world away from the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon, and the Trump administration’s attempt to market a new one is ill-advised and dangerous.”
President Trump’s nuclear strategy, unveiled earlier in 2018, calls for the development of low-yield nuclear weapons to deter threats from North Korea, Russia, and China. To this end, the administration has requested $23 million in the 2019 budget to flight-test the lower-yield warhead variant on a Trident submarine before deployment. The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Gen. John Hyten, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that he “strongly agrees” that the Pentagon should acquire low-yield nuclear warheads to deter Russia:
“That capability is a deterrence weapon to respond to the threat that Russia in particular is portraying. [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin announced as far back as April of 2000 that the Russian doctrine will be to use a low-yield nuclear weapon on the battlefield in case of a conventional overmatch with an adversary.”
This strategy has been called “escalate to deeescalate,” meaning that Russia would employ low-yield tactical nuclear weapons in a conventional battle, forcing the U.S. to either escalate the conflict with higher-yield strategic nukes or concede.
This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Armed Services with the support of 10 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats. It’s also supported by the Arms Control Association, Global Zero, Union of Concerned Scientists, Ploughshares, Win Without War, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Peace Action, and others.
Of Note: The U.S. has come close to nuclear war in the past. On September 26, 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov made a split-second decision and deemed a supposed missile attack from the U.S. to be an error, refusing out carry out an order to counter-attack, thus avoiding a potential nuclear war. Had Petrov not made that personal judgment, it’s likely the U.S. and Soviet Union would have begun a nuclear war.
The U.S. nuclear arsenal already includes a low-yield nuclear warhead on the B61 gravity bomb, which has an adjustable yield that can go as low as 0.3 kilotons. But the B61 and its modifications can only be launched from aircraft, which Defense Secretary James Mattis says could be “vulnerable to formidable Russian air defenses.”
Some nuclear non-proliferation proponents argue that there’s no such thing as a limited nuclear war. George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s top diplomat, said: “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon. You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there.” More recently, Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “I don’t think there’s any such thing as a tactical nuclear weapon. Any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game changer.”
- Senate Sponsor Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Press Release
- Peace Action Press Release (In Favor)
- Physicians for Social Responsibility Press Release (In Favor)
- Union of Concerned Scientists Press Release (In Favor)
- Ploughshares Fund (Op-Ed In Favor)
- War On the Rocks (Op-Ed In Favor)
- Stars and Stripes
- Washington Post
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / RomoloTavani)