A hair-trigger away

Union of Concerned Scientists urges Obama to take missiles off hair-trigger alert before his term ends

In 1979, the United States almost launched a full-scale nuclear attack on the Soviet Union—because nuclear operators misunderstood that they were watching a training video instead of an actual attack.

In 1995, Russian radar misinterpreted a research rocket, and President Yeltsin began preparations to launch a retaliatory attack.

And in 2017, whoever is elected as our next president will still have hundreds of nuclear missiles on “hair-trigger alert”—ready to be launched in minutes.

images-1Scientists say hair-trigger alert is an outdated policy that’s left over from the Cold War—the era when some officials worried that a surprise Soviet attack would leave the United States with no ability to respond.

National security experts agree that hair-trigger alert makes accidental nuclear war more likely—and could lead to a deliberate war, ordered in response to a false alarm.es the White House and the next president takes office.