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 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!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on 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!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

This is roughly the kind of historical information Trump saw this July at a Pentagon meeting that prompted him to say he wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal tenfold, as NBC News reported Wednesday morning.

Expand chart
Data: Federation of American Scientists, Nuclear Notebook; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios
The Facts:

The concern was that in the 1960s the U.S. had the most nuclear weapons stockpiled, which has since declined. But officials in the room reportedly told Trump that although the arsenal is smaller now than it was in the 60s, it is stronger.

  • Strong, marginal, and weak: The Heritage Foundation's 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength scores the current U.S. nuclear stockpile as "strong," the second-highest ranking just after "very strong" on their scale. Delivery platforms were also ranked "strong." However, Heritage labeled overall nuclear power "marginal," the third-strongest rank. The "weak" ranking fell to warhead modernization efforts in the U.S. as well as to the facilities that develop and host these components.
  • No guarantees, pitfalls remain: The nuclear arsenal, like much of the military, suffers from "force degradation resulting from many years of underinvestment, poor execution of modernization programs, and the negative effects of budget sequestration (cuts in funding) on readiness and capacity," Heritage writes. Similarly, future pitfalls to the nuclear stockpile's viability remain since it's not a guarantee that the long-term effects of aging materials won't compromise nuclear weapons. Plus, without nuclear testing, assessments of viability are, in effect, incomplete — simulations these days are based on tests conducted in the 50s and 60s — so problems in the stockpile as it ages may go unchecked.
  • Put it in perspective: If, indeed Trump wanted to increase the nuclear stockpile, which stands at about 4,000 nuclear warheads right now, that would make the U.S. nuclear muscle greater than all other countries' known nuclear arsenals combined. Trump later Wednesday said it was "frankly disgusting" that media can write whatever it wants. The Pentagon is currently conducting its Nuclear Posture Review.
  • India, Israel, and Pakistan have not signed onto the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but are known to have nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
37 mins ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

Amanda Gorman steals the show on Inauguration Day

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

Poet Amanda Gorman by far generated the most average interactions on social media on Inauguration Day, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

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!