No First Use: Decrease the Danger of Nuclear War

Campaign Plan

Campaign Plan:  No First Use: Decrease the Danger of Nuclear War

  1. Introduction:

With the proposed upgrade of nuclear weapons, withdrawal from arms control treaties, and signs of a new Cold War with Russia and China, the danger of nuclear weapons use is increasing. This campaign is focused on broadening the base of Americans who will express concern over this dangerous nuclear weapons buildup. The political focus is on  pressing the U.S. to adopt a Prohibiting First Use of Nuclear Weapons policy. We believe this is a politically accessible and realistic first step toward nuclear disarmament to what otherwise often appears to many citizens as entirely inaccessible to their civic action and concern. The Campaign will work closely with the Bank from Brink Campaign.

Overall Goals:

  • To reduce the risk of nuclear war.
  • To expand and enlarge social constituencies actively supporting Nuclear Disarmament.
  • To integrate the call for Prohibiting No First Use of Nuclear Weapons with other Nuclear Disarmament peace and justice Initiatives.
  • To raise concern over the increasing danger of first use of nuclear weapons, into public discourse – and thus the need to revise US policy.
  • To build on existing contacts among five socially and politically significant constituencies: a) Concerned voters in key Congressional Districts; b) Faculty on college and university campuses; c) Faculty at Law Schools; d) Elected members of State Legislatures; and e) members of Rotary Clubs, other civic organizations, and communities of faith.


The Value of Prohibiting First Use as a Toe in the Door towards Nuclear Disarmament:

The members of the steering committee for this proposal have decades of experience advocating for nuclear disarmament to very diverse audiences: Campus groups; Church gatherings; Community forums; national scientific conferences. A widespread response we encounter -independent of demographic – is a feeling of civic helplessness – that no obvious path is available within the US for actually reducing our nuclear arsenal.

The value of this Prohibiting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Campaign  is that it represents a significant if limited step, and so clearly desirable and moral, that some citizens consider it an accessible first step up the disarmament ladder. The fact that bills have been introduced in the House and Senate offers a political horse to ride.

2. Campaign Targets and Activities:

We propose five areas of concentration:

1) Influencing Congress: The political action arm of the campaign will ask constituents of U.S Senators and Representatives to vote for legislation reducing the risk of nuclear war, reduce international tensions, and to build Common Security collaborations.  The Campaign will organize delegations of concerned citizens to meet with legislators in their districts and call for support (at this writing) for the Warren-Smith Bill  (S1219, HR2603, “To Establish the Policy of the United States Regarding the No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons”), the Markey-Lieu Bill (S1148, HR669, “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2021”), and the Markey-Khanna Bill (S982, HR2227 “ICBM Act”; “To Redirect Savings from the Development of the New Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent Program [ICBM] toward the Development of a Universal Coronavirus Vaccine, and for Other Purposes”).

2) Campus-based education and organization: Colleges and universities remain the major environment through which young people learn ( or don’t learn) about US use and deployment of nuclear weapons. The Campaign Committee has an existing network of faculty contacts on more than 75 U.S. campuses. These faculty provide a natural network for raising up the issues of nuclear weapons on campuses, as well as through their peer groups and professional societies.

The campus based educational arm of the campaign will focus on recruiting faculty members at US college and university campuses to organize public seminars and forums which raise the issue of the pressing need to take steps toward nuclear disarmament and reduction of the risks of nuclear war. This will build on our existing network of humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences on U.S. campuses. We expect to coordinate with existing faculty groups including Physicists for Nuclear Threat Reduction.

Such events generally also reach students and staffs, and surrounding communities.      In key Congressional Districts they provide a base for Congressional outreach.

Because most faculty, at least at research colleges and universities, belong to national professional societies, a natural follow-up will be the submission of nuclear disarmament resolutions to these Societies. Such efforts identify and recruit sympathetic faculty on additional campuses to the initiating group.


3) Law School-based Education and Mobilization: A second locus of the campus -based effort will focus on Law Schools. These remain the major academic background for members of the U.S. Congress. The 2017 Presidential First Use Conference attracted considerable interest from the legal community, due to the primacy of the Constitutional question raised. Subsequently the national elections and Black Lives Matter mobilizations took precedence among law students. However, we believe the time is ripe for contacting Law School Faculty. The Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy has extensive contacts at Law Schools and we intend to work closely with  them promoting seminars on their campuses.

This effort builds on our contacts at more than 20 US law schools with faculty concerned over the constitutional issues surrounding Presidential First Use of Nuclear weapons. The campaign will lower the barriers to organizing such seminars or talks by providing a knowledgeable Zoom speaker(s) for the event at no cost.


4) Educational Campaigns for State legislators; A particularly important group of citizens, who are not generally engaged in any significant way with advancing nuclear disarmament, are State Legislators. Though this group is numerically small, they are significant participants in the national Democratic and Republican parties. Many U.S. Congresspersons were previously State Legislators.

Following the model launched in 2019 by the Mass Statewide Peace and Justice Network, we will recruit individual legislators in states across the country to introduce legislation raising the issues of nuclear weapons dangers and costs. The Campaign will also coordinate these efforts with the Women’s Legislative Lobby network sponsored by Women’s Action for New Directions. The bills  may promote federal No First Use Legislation, promote divestment from companies manufacturing nuclear weapons (following the tobacco divestment  example) or promote the Back from the Brink Campaign.


5) Educational Campaigns through the Rotary Club network, other organizations of civic society, and Communities of Faith

Current  efforts with Rotary Clubs provide a model:  Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and act to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves.  Rotarians are People of Action, using their passion, energy and intelligence to act on sustainable projects.  From literacy and peace to water and health, they are always working to better the world, and remain committed to the end.  They believe that we have a shared responsibility to  act on our world’s most persistent issues.  The 35000+ clubs work together to promote peace; fight disease; provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene; save mothers and children; support education; and, grow local economies.  The mission is to provide service to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through the fellowship of business, professional and community leaders.  All Rotary activities are guided by the Four Way Test and the Code of Conduct (see below).


During the past five years, a group of Rotarians from around the world have focused on educating the Rotary community and others about the urgency to eliminate nuclear weapons.  These Rotarians are organized under the Rotary Action Group for Peace Nuclear Weapons Education Subcommittee (chaired by Ann Frisch), Friends for Peace Building and Conflict Prevention (chaired by Richard Denton) and an informal discussion group on the Rotary Blog and on the Facebook page World Free of Nuclear Weapons  (led by Dennis Wong).  In addition, the group has focused on speaking to Rotary clubs and other interested groups, partnering with other organizations with similar goals (i.e., MAPA, Back from the Brink, etc.) and establishing ongoing working relationships with key policy U.S. and international  influencers.


Of course, the Campaign outreach will include the many peace and justice advocacy organizations who are natural allies, but are  not currently promoting Prohibiting First Use Initiatives. Our current participating organizations are in regular communication with these allied groups and constituencies.


III. Strategy and Tactics of this Campaign:
The long-term Goals of this campaign are to achieve concrete steps toward reducing the very real risk of the use of nuclear weapons, whether intentional or inadvertent. This requires steps toward nuclear disarmament defined by both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Unfortunately, there is little evidence from Congressional votes or Administration actions over the past decade that the U.S is approaching this goal. The proposed $2 trillion upgrade of all three sections of the nuclear weapons triad is fundamentally destabilizing and a step toward a new nuclear arms race.

The legal basis for Prohibiting First Use of Nuclear Weapons resides in our nation’s Constitution – as the Markey-Lieu and Smith-Warren bills make clear – which gives war making power to the Congress. Current US policy gives the President the power to launch nuclear weapons.  A Presidential or Presidential line of command  launch of nuclear weapons directed at another nation is clearly an act of war. The first effect of a Prohibiting First Use policy would prevent this unconstitutional action by the President or his agents. These goals are expressed in  the Markey-Lieu and Smith-Warren bills.

We believe the struggle for nuclear disarmament  is at the stage of needing to build geographically and socially broader bases of political support. One toe in the door tactic is to start with reducing the danger of an actual nuclear weapons launch. This would follow from pressing the Administration and the Congress to at least debate Prohibition of First Use, and perhaps over the next four years, pass it. We also recognize the urgent need to reduce military tensions with China in order to confront and reverse the climate emergency and the continuing danger of pandemics

We note that Prohibition of No First Use does not involve loss of industrial jobs, nor will it even significantly bite into the profits of the military/industrial complex. But politically we believe it will awaken our citizenry to the reality of the nuclear peril and lead to further steps in the direction of disarmament, such as opening the door to significant weapons cutbacks and recognition of the incompatibility between nuclear weapons and legitimate governance.

Campaign Project Leaders, Steering Committee members, and Project Staff, work closely with Senator Markey, Rep. Khanna and Rep. McGovern and will be kept informed of opportunities in the Congress to support steps toward nuclear disarmament.

IV. Campaign Implementation:

          Influencing Congress:

       All the organizations participating in this campaign routinely call upon their members to write to their House and Senate members. Following discussions with Senator Markey, Rep. McGovern and Rep Khanna we expect to concentrate on three groups:

  1. a) Members of the Armed Services Committees and Foreign Relations Committees;
  2. b) Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who have not previously supported amendments restricting nuclear weapons;
  3. c) Nuclear disarmament leaders in the Progressive Caucus who need to be supported, given pressures on them from nuclear weapons contractors.

Some of the choices for campus organizing described below will also be influenced by their location  in some of the districts above.


The Campaign will organize delegations of concerned citizens to meet with legislators in their districts and call for support (at this writing) for the Warren-Smith Bill  (S1219, HR2603, “To Establish the Policy of the United States Regarding the No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons”), the Markey-Lieu Bill (S1148, HR669, “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2021”), and the Markey-Khanna Bill (S982, HR2227 “ICBM Act”; “To Redirect Savings from the Development of the New Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent Program [ICBM] toward the Development of a Universal Coronavirus Vaccine, Climate Change, and for Other Purposes”).


          How Will We Recruit Campus- based Conveners?
The Campaign Committee has contacts with scientists and scholars at more than 70 US campuses, in forty states. These derive from a) the Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War conferences; b) our work opposing the resumption of weapons testing; c) Contacts with faculty on other campuses through direct campus visits (both Scarry and King); d) contacts with Physics Faculty through the Physicists Coalition for Nuclear Threat Reduction.

Chicago Peace Action has faculty contacts at numerous area colleges; Mass. Peace Action has faculty contacts at a dozen Massachusetts campuses. Peace Action of New York state has contacts with the Faculty Mentors on twenty New York State campuses. Prof King chairs a national Committee promoting increasing NIH funding by cutting Pentagon spending, with members from Stanford, Univ. of Utah, Univ. Vermont, University of Houston, Rutgers, Framingham State, Emory University, Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Many of the Co-sponsoring organizations have additional campus contacts.
These relationships are all based on shared concern over nuclear weapons spending, either with respect to the war danger, or the defunding of civilian science.

Though not widely recognized, the increasing expenditures on  nuclear weapons modernization impact directly on natural and social science faculty, many of whom depend on federal NIH, NSF or other federal grants. These have been sharply constrained by the pressure on Congress to fund the increases in weapons development and purchases. Thus, we will make efforts to ensure that campus events include speakers who will address the economic damage that follows in the wake of the nuclear weapons modernization program. The Campaign  will encourage participation in any disarmament campaign that appeals to the local group – Back from the Brink; Fund Healthcare not Nuclear Warfare; Support the TPNW and other treaties, Prohibit First Use of Nuclear Weapons, etc.

Such sessions provide an opportunity to  also address the driving forces behind the development of first strike nuclear weapons: the mega profits of leading arms manufacturers, nuclear weapons production as a jobs program, and the imperial ambition of maintaining U.S. Indo-Pacific hegemony in an era of rising Chinese power and influence.


Utilizing the  transition from face to face to zoom transition, we will provide authoritative and experienced speakers at no cost. Campus conveners will be encouraged to link up with Back from the Brink advocates in their states, and establish some level of continuing campus education.


Such events provide a venue for encouraging  constituents to contact their U.S. Congressional Representatives in support of the multiple No First Use Bills that have been introduced into the Congress.


Faculty efforts will be amplified by submission of Resolutions to their professional societies calling for support for nuclear disarmament and initiation of education efforts within the Society.


Strategic Choice of Campus Outreach:


There are colleges and universities in every Congressional District in the U.S. In some cases, our choice of campus will reflect its location in a district whose sitting Congressperson maybe a key vote on nuclear disarmament issues.


We are also particularly interested in campuses with a large minority population, such as Temple in Philadelphia, Wayne State in Detroit, Morgan State in Maryland, Cal State in Los Angeles.  For these communities, the diversion of tax dollars from education and human needs to nuclear weapons is a  pressing issue. These efforts may be in collaboration with local Peace Action groups, State chapters of the Poor Peoples Campaign, and State Chapters of Our Revolution. Developing these contacts will take more time than others, but may be particularly valuable politically.


          Law School Outreach:

Building on our 2017 and 2021 Prohibiting First Use of Nuclear Weapons national Conferences, we will nucleate Nuclear Disarmament/Prohibiting First Use seminars and forums at ~20 law schools. These efforts will be aided by our partner organization Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy. Because the Constitution is so clear on giving Congress the power to make war, we continue to find  that many Constitutional Law scholars find the power of the President or his agent to launch nuclear weapons, to be incompatible with powers enumerated to the Executive by the Constitution.  As with the general campus events above  we will lower the barriers to organizing a talk, by offering knowledgeable speakers.


          How will we reach State Legislators?

The organizations collaborating in this effort have active members in more than 20 states. We plan to invite a few members in each state to identify a friendly State Representative or Senator, and propose the introduction of nuclear disarmament legislation. The bills already introduced into the mass State Legislature provide set of templates.


In addition, the Women’s Legislative Lobby Network has State Legislative members in more than 30 states. Numerous Mass State Reps and Senators have worked with us closely on introducing and promoting nuclear disarmament legislation in the Mass State Legislature and will be leading the effort to contact their colleagues in other State. Some of this work is done through the National Conference of State Legislatures.


V. Issues of Equity and Diversity:

          In promoting seminars, forums and teach-ins on nuclear disarmament issues, we will attend closely to the need to represent all sectors of our communities.

Our goals for gender inclusiveness are to ensure that all the seminars and forums that we sponsor or co-sponsor, have both female and male plenary speakers. On the one hand we are offering campus groups a diverse group of speakers, including those from the project Steering Committee, from the Back from the Brink campaign, from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, from CODEPINK, and from the Poor Peoples Campaign. On the other hand, colleges and university campuses generally have a rich population of female faculty, scholars, researchers and teaching staffs who are knowledgeable about the issues facing the various campuses. In many cases these will not be nuclear weapons themselves, but the underfunding of housing, healthcare, education, clean water or environmental protection that follows from the diversion of national wealth to the proposed $2 trillion nuclear weapons modernization.


For example, Mass. Peace Action has organized numerous public webinars since the onset of the Pandemic. Of the total of 142 speakers in programs from September 1st to December 31st, 2020, 40% were Female. At our major public forum, “Where Do We Go From Here”, the ratio of female/male was similar. At our major annual public forum in 2019 the ratio was 3 Female to 4 Male plenary speakers.<>. Achieving gender equity has been a continuing goal and task for our organizing and program committees.


Our ability to recruit participants of color builds on our recognition of the enormous costs of nuclear weapons campaigns, and their draining funds from human needs. This focus has enabled many of the participating organizations to engage and recruit leaders of minority communities hardest hit by the decades of underfunding critical human needs organizations. This is clear for example in MAPA’s Fund Healthcare Not Warfare Webinars.



The Campaign will be overseen by a Steering Committee whose current members include: Joseph Gerson -Secretary (Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security-CPDCS), Elaine Scarry (CPDCS and Mass. Peace Action); Jerald Ross (CPDCS); Carley Towne (CODEPINK), David Borris (Chicago Area Peace Action), Jonathan King (MIT Radius and Mass. Peace Action); Steve Gallant (Mass. Peace Action and CPDCS); Cole Harrison (Mass. Peace Action); Jim Anderson (Peace Action of New York State), Dr. Ira Helfand (Physicians for Social Responsibility) and Susan Mirsky (Newton Dialogues on Peace and War).

This Committee will expand as co-sponsoring organizations designate delegates. The governance process may be modified as the Campaign develops and expanded.

         VI. Some Immediate Tasks:

  • Compose Call to recruit co-sponsors to No First Use bills.
  • Compose letter to campus faculty inviting engagement;
  • Compose Letter to law school faculty Inviting Engagement;
  • Compose letter inviting State Legislators to initiate nuclear disarmament bills in their States;
  • Produce general brochure describing campaign;
  • Produce short curriculum for Rotarian groups;
  • Invite allied organization of a further planning meeting.

Some dates

  • Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – Conference of Parties – tentatively January 12-14, 2022
  • Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference – sometime in 2022


VII. Appendix:

Fiscal Agent

If any funds are received for specific support of components of this campaign, the Fiscal Sponsors will be

Mass. Peace Action Education Fund (501(c3), and/or

Mass. Peace Action (501(c4)


The Experience of the Fiscal Agent:


Mass. Peace Action, INC (c4): According to its Articles of Incorporation “The corporation is exclusively organized for the promotion of social welfare ……including without limitation the development and communication of policies promotive of world peace and disarmament and it may engage in all activities permitted by the Act incidental to or in furtherance of that purpose”.

Mass. Peace Action (MAPA) is a network of 14,000 Mass households whose members are concerned with issues of war, peace, pentagon spending and nuclear disarmament. MAPA Is one of the oldest and largest grassroots peace organizations in the US, dating from before the Nuclear Weapons Freeze campaign. The budget is provided by mostly small donations from thousands of members.

The work of the organization is led by hundreds of members who volunteer actively to run the multiple Working Groups and Committees, and others who help with fundraising, distribute literature, hold signs at demonstrations, and contact their elected representatives to express their concerns.

MAPA is unusual in being member led rather than staff driven.  This project on Prohibiting First Use of Nuclear Weapons grew out the work of the Nuclear Disarmament Working Group. With a listserv of 150, 25 of whom regularly attend biweekly meeting, this is the largest and most active Working Group in MAPA. Among those who attend regularly are leaders of AFSC, Campaign for Peace Disarmament and Common Security, CODEPINK, Dorchester People for Peace, Greater Boston PSR, Newton Dialogues on Peace and War, Maryland Peace Action, Merrimack People for Peace, New Hampshire Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, WAND, WILPF and Watertown Citizens for Peace and Environmental Justice.

Through MAPA’s Fund Healthcare not Warfare Campaign we have relationships with major organizations outside the peace movement, including Mass Public Health Association, Mass Nurses Association, Service Employees Union healthcare locals, MassCARE (Medicaid for All), the MA-Poor Peoples Campaign and Progressive Democrats of America.

Through its active support and participation in the MIT “Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War” conferences; the NDWG represents a national network. Thus, we are in active dialogue with representatives of national Our Revolution and the national Poor Peoples Campaign.
Steering Committee members have extensive experience, not just for advocating, but with organizing for nuclear disarmament among diverse communities and constituencies.