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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

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

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