On Jan. 9, 2017, Gizmodo ran a story titled “Trump Just Dismissed the People in Charge of Maintaining Our Nuclear Arsenal.” The article published claims from unnamed members of the National Nuclear Security Administration who said the incoming president had ordered them to clear out their desks before his inauguration.
People on Twitter traded speculation about what an empty NNSA might mean for America’s nuclear security come Jan. 21. Within several hours, however, Gizmodo updated the story, changed the title (to “Trump Is Letting Go the People in Charge of Maintaining Our Nuclear Arsenal”) and issued a correction. The situation, it seemed, was not as dire as everyone suspected.
During the first few hours after the stories publication, U.S. Naval War College professor and nuclear policy expert Tom Nichols took to Twitter to calm everyone down. He urged caution in the face of panic, reminded people that the NNSA wasn’t a very old agency, its role in nuclear security unclear and that transitions are always messy.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not worried about the President-elect’s plans for America’s nuclear arsenal. This week on War College, we sit down with Tom Nichols to discuss the Gizmodo story, the NNSA and Trump’s nuclear ambitions.
For Nichols, when it comes to Trump you never know until he takes action. When it comes to nukes, even minor actions can have dire consequences.