Washington (April 26, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Ted W. Lieu (CA-36), Don Beyer (VA-08) and Ken Buck (CO-04) today introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Act, legislation to safeguard the nuclear command and control process from any future change in policy that allows artificial intelligence (AI) to make nuclear launch decisions.
The Department of Defense’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review states that current policy is to “maintain a human ‘in the loop’ for all actions critical to informing and executing decisions by the President to initiate and terminate nuclear weapon employment” in all cases. The Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous AI Act would codify the Department’s existing policy by ensuring that no federal funds can be used for any launch of any nuclear weapon by an automated system without meaningful human control. Furthermore, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, established by Congress through the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act, recommended in their final report that the U.S. clearly and publicly affirm its policy that only human beings can authorize employment of nuclear weapons. This bill follows through on their recommendation.
“As we live in an increasingly digital age, we need to ensure that humans hold the power alone to command, control, and launch nuclear weapons – not robots,” said Senator Markey. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Act. We need to keep humans in the loop on making life or death decisions to use deadly force, especially for our most dangerous weapons.”
“AI technology is developing at an extremely rapid pace,” said Representative Lieu. “While we all try to grapple with the pace at which AI is accelerating, the future of AI and its role in society remains unclear. It is our job as Members of Congress to have responsible foresight when it comes to protecting future generations from potentially devastating consequences. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous AI Act, which will ensure that no matter what happens in the future, a human being has control over the employment of a nuclear weapon – not a robot. AI can never be a substitute for human judgment when it comes to launching nuclear weapons. I’m grateful to Representatives Beyer and Buck and Senator Markey for their work on this important, forward-thinking legislation.”
“While U.S. military use of AI can be appropriate for enhancing national security purposes, use of AI for deploying nuclear weapons without a human chain of command and control is reckless, dangerous, and should be prohibited,” said Representative Buck. “I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation to ensure that human beings, not machines, have the final say over the most critical and sensitive military decisions.”
Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The legislation is endorsed by Ploughshares Fund, Arms Control Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Council for a Livable World, Public Citizen, Preamble Inc., and Global Zero.
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
In April, Senator Markey and Representative Lieu reintroduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act to prohibit any U.S. President from launching a nuclear strike without prior authorization from Congress. Last October, Senator Markey, then-member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, filed eight amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to reduce the risk of ‘nuclear Armageddon’ and stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Last January, co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, Senators Markey and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives John Garamendi (CA-03) and Beyer led 51 of their colleagues in a letter to President Joe Biden urging the United States to take bold steps to reduce the nation’s reliance on nuclear weapons and to elevate arms control.