Amid growing anxiety about North Korea’s nuclear weapon capabilities, President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that one of the first things he did on assuming the presidency was to “modernize” the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
But there’s no evidence that the president has upgraded the nation’s nuclear arsenal in his mere seven months in office.
What’s more, because of how Congress works, any changes the president could have made to the nuclear arsenal could not take effect before next year anyway. In fact, the arsenal Trump is boasting about is the one maintained by President Barack Obama.
Let’s break it down and review the facts.
Trump ordered a rebuilding of the American military and assessing its readiness on January 27th, a week into office. In that order, Trump called for a “Nuclear Posture Review,” an analysis designed to help the new administration understand its existing arsenal and how it meets strategic needs.
Neither have any direct effect on the nuclear arsenal that the nation has today.
“Under the Constitution, Congress controls nuclear modernization as part of its power to organize, equip, and fund of our armed forces. President Trump’s requests related to nuclear weapons modernization have not yet passed Congress, and nothing he has done would even begin to take effect until 2018,” said Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, in an email.
“The only thing he has done so far is sign a presidential memorandum requiring a nuclear posture review, but the review is nowhere near complete,” he added.
Col. Jack Jacobs, an NBC News military analyst and Medal of Honor recipient, likened the president’s order to Obama’s efforts to close the prison Guantanamo Bay, which were ultimately unsuccessful.
“In order to make something happen, Congress has to approve it and approve an authorization bill that authorizes the expenditure of the money and, separately, an appropriations bill that directs the government to write the check for it,” he said. “Neither one of those things have occurred.”
Obama undertook gradual upgrades to the nuclear arsenal and he supported a $1 trillion process for modernization last year. Trump has requested a huge uptick in nuclear spending — a 11 percent increase over the current year’s appropriation. But for now those plans are simply that.