On Tuesday, November 14th, Professor Peter Feaver testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lending his expertise on Presidential “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons.” It was the first time since 1967 that Congress had held a committee hearing to determine what legislative checks and balances exist around nuclear command and control – an increasingly salient topic given the President’s rhetoric on Twitter and other fora vis-à-vis North Korea.
With dual appointments in political science and public policy, Professor Feaver has researched and worked in American military strategy for over 30 years, including as Special Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform on the National Security Council Staff at the White House (2005-2007). He currently serves as Director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and Director of Duke’s American Grand Strategy Program (AGS). Feaver joined former military commanders and Department of Defense officials on Tuesday to provide expert opinion and recommend next steps for updating the country’s nuclear policies.
In a succinct testimony followed by an open question and answer session, Feaver educated committee members on the complexities of our country’s nuclear strategy, past and present. He began by describing the importance of maintaining a credible nuclear deterrence component, then emphasized the need for more investments to keep our nuclear technology up to date. Next, Feaver indicated that the best reforms to nuclear command and control should involve maximizing deliberation time – leveraging the human element in decision-making to further mitigate risks. He ended with a plea to act now to review the nuclear command and control which “is likely…overdue for some major (and expensive) upgrades.”
Duke professors regularly testify before Congress to lend their expertise and share research-related findings to policymakers on a variety of issues. Feaver’s invitation to speak at Tuesday’s hearing is testament to the continuing role that academics play beyond the “ivory tower,” working together with policymakers to strengthen our country’s policies through better informed decision-making.