Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (May 4, 2023) – On the 40th anniversary of the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the Nuclear Freeze Resolution, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, and Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02) today announced the reintroduction of the Hastening Arms Limitation Talks (HALT) Act, legislation that would establish a 21st century freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.

Today, the arms control regime is fraying, especially as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to breach the New START Treaty – the last remaining legal limit on the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles. The HALT Act would require the U.S. to pursue the resumption of on-site inspections mandated through the treaty, as well as a new bilateral agreement between Russia and the United States for all nuclear weapons and strategic systems.

“The threat of nuclear war looms larger today than it has since the Cold War,” said Senator Markey. “It is more pressing during times of war than in times of peace to ensure that disarmament talks do not falter. I am calling on the President and the Pentagon to lead where they would have Putin follow, starting with a total freeze on the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons.”

“The world continues to move in the wrong direction on nuclear disarmament and arms control. To avert disaster, the United States must urgently lead a multilateral freeze on nuclear weapons testing, production, and deployment,” said Congressman McGovern. “Every penny spent on nuclear weapons serves no purpose but to strengthen the hand of evil in the world and bring humanity one stop closer to extinction. We need a 21st century nuclear freeze movement so we can hit the brakes on this dangerous escalation, honor our existing treaty obligations, spend our time and money improving our country and world, and eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.”

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is a cosponsor of the legislation. A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

Endorsers of the HALT Act include the Arms Control Association, Council for a Livable World, Ploughshares Fund, NoFirstUse Global, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Massachusetts Peace Action.

Specifically, the HALT Act stipulates that the aims of U.S. policy should include:

  1. An agreement on a verifiable freeze on the testing, production, and further deployment of all nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles for such weapons;
  2. A resumption of on-site inspections and verification measures per the New START Treaty;
  3. A bilateral U.S. agreement with the Russian Federation on a treaty or agreement that covers non-strategic nuclear weapons or strategic systems not covered by the New START Treaty;
  4. Negotiations of a verifiable Fissile Material Treaty or Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in the United Nations (UN) Conference on Disarmament or another international forum;
  5. Series of U.S. disarmament summits to reduce stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material;
  6. U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and mobilization of all countries covered by Annex 2 of the CTBT to pursue similar action necessary for entry-into-force of the treaty;
  7. Other engagements with all other countries that possess nuclear weapons to negotiate and conclude future multilateral arms control, disarmament, and risk reduction agreements; and
  8. Prohibition of funds to prepare for or to conduct U.S. explosive nuclear-weapon testing.

The HALT Act comes 41 years after one million people gathered in New York’s Central Park to promote a nuclear weapons freeze—the largest peace demonstration in U.S. history. Then-Representative Markey addressed the crowd on June 12, 1982, demanding an end to President Ronald Reagan’s unnecessary spending on new nuclear weapons systems and calling for the President to begin negotiations on nuclear arms reduction with the Soviet Union. Experts credit the freeze movement with creating the political will necessary for the negotiation of bilateral arms control treaties between the United States and former Soviet Union, later Russia. 

“With nuclear risks growing almost every day in Ukraine and a dangerous new arms race with Russia and China brewing, it is more important than ever that the United States works to reduce global nuclear arsenals rather than increase them,” said Dr. Emma Belcher, President of Ploughshares Fund. “Senator Markey reminds us that arms control diplomacy, such as the New START treaty, is the only proven to way address these dangers. The only way to win an arms race is not to run. We thank Senator Markey for his leadership at this crucial time.”

“The HALT Act is an important move to ensure that bilateral nuclear arms control does not disappear. By calling for a United States freeze on testing, production and further deployment of nuclear weapons, the Act leads by example and provides a possibility to engage with Russia. And the call for no-first-use helps to prevent nuclear war from occurring through crisis escalation, mis-calculation or accident,” said John Hallam, member of the No First Use Global Steering Committee.

“Conflicts between USA and other nuclear-armed States – including Russia, China and North Korea – threaten to spill over into nuclear war unless leadership is taken to halt the nuclear arms race, end provocative policies such as the threat of first-use of nuclear weapons, and resume arms control and disarmament negotiations. The HALT Act makes sound, feasible proposals which if enacted will enhance the security of all,” said Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

“If the intent of this legislation becomes a bilateral U.S.-Russian reality, then the cause of arms control will be coming back on track instead of, as it is now, being on the brink of disappearance,” said John Hallam, co-convenor of the Abolition 2000 Nuclear Risk Reduction Working Group.

Last month, Senator Markey and Representative Ted Lieu (CA-36) introduced the Block Nuclear Launch by Autonomous Artificial Intelligence Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to prevent artificial intelligence (AI) from launching a nuclear weapon. Also in April, the two lawmakers 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 filed eight amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to reduce the risk of ‘nuclear Armageddon’ and stop the proliferation of nuclear weapon amid fear of Russian nuclear recklessness.