Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New reporting around the chaotic final stages of President Trump's tenure underscores essential problems with the U.S. nuclear command-and-control system.

Why it matters: One person possesses the authority to launch America's massive nuclear arsenal and quite possibly end the world: the president. And there's no clear, legal way to circumvent that authority if they can't be trusted.

Driving the news: In their forthcoming book, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report that during the final months of Trump's administration, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley summoned senior officers from the National Military Command Center to go over the procedures for launching a nuclear weapon.

  • Milley also reportedly told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the Jan. 6 riot in the Capitol that "the nuclear triggers are secure and we're not going to do — we're not going to allow anything crazy, illegal, immoral or unethical to happen."

The big picture: While the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is the White House's top military adviser and the National Military Command System is charged with actually carrying out a launch order, the president is not required to check with them or get their assent before launching a nuclear strike.

  • There are rational — at least by the mad logic of nuclear war — reasons for this.
  • The sheer speed of nuclear conflict gives the president only minutes to decide where to fire U.S. missiles or risk losing some of them in a first strike.

The catch: That system means the ultimate nuclear failsafe is the president themself — and if that president can't be trusted to act rationally, all bets are off.

  • During the end of President Richard Nixon's tenure, his behavior was so erratic that Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger asked military officers to check with him first if Nixon gave a nuclear launch order.

Between the lines: There's no clear way to create a nuclear command system that can act almost instantly without giving the president sole authority — which is why advisers like Schlesinger and Milley reportedly had to resort in a crisis to quasi-legal means to circumvent it.

  • Some experts have suggested the system itself is outdated and the risk of the U.S. facing a Cold War-style intentional first strike that requires an immediate response is far less likely than the chance of an accidental war — which sole authority arguably increases.
  • In a report published earlier this month, the Ploughshares Fund's Doreen Horschig calls for ending sole authority and mandating that the military would only follow a presidential launch order if it were approved by Congress.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 12, 2021 - World

Kim Jong-un blames U.S. for tensions as Pyongyang showcases weaponry

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and military members stand next to what appears to be a hypersonic missile at the National Defense Development Exhibition "Self-Defense 2021," according to the Korean Central News Agency. Photo: KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared while attending a weapons exhibition that the country had "invincible" defense capabilities as he accused the U.S. of being the source of regional tensions, state media reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: Kim said in a speech at Monday's event that the country was strengthening its weapons arsenal but didn't want a war, per the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Mapping repression in China's Xinjiang region

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.

Report: U.S. Latinos near 50% homeownership rate

Real estate broker Alex Betances sits in front of a home in Reading, Pa. Photo: Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Image

Latinos increased their homeownership rate to nearly 50% in 2020, according to a report from a group monitoring U.S. Hispanic wealth creation.

Why it matters: The Hispanic Wealth Project found that the homeownership rate grew despite the lack of diversified financial assets among Latinos and around 15% who still live below the federal poverty line ($26,500 for a family of four).

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!