The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kyle Ann Sebastian,

Over 300 State and Local Leaders Call on Biden, Congress to Take Bold Action on Nuclear Weapons

Officials across 41 states support back from the brink campaign.


Today, the Back from the Brink campaign released a letter signed by over 300 local, county and state officials representing 41 states, calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to reduce and eliminate the threat nuclear weapons pose to their communities and the world. The letter includes representatives from diverse communities across the United States, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, and Alaska to Florida. The letter remains open for other local leaders to sign.

"Defense budgets and the threat of nuclear war are certainly not topics debated at the County Council," said Dee Durham, a member of the New Castle County Council in Delaware - President Biden's home county - and a signatory of the letter. "However, in a very real way, nothing matters unless we work together to prevent the greatest threat to our very existence. We have a platform to express our voice on matters that impact our constituents, including the use of taxpayer monies not just locally, but globally."

The Back from the Brink campaign calls for five common sense policy changes to make the U.S. and world safer from nuclear weapons by:

  • Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals;
  • Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
  • Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack;
  • Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; and
  • Cancelling the plan to replace the entire U.S. arsenal with enhanced weapons at a cost of more than $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

According to these local leaders, the nuclear arms race robs their communities of needed resources to address pressing problems of human security, such as COVID-19 recovery, racial and economic inequity and housing and food insecurity.

"We need to shift our valuable resources to important endeavors that actually keep people safe like affordable housing, environmental sustainability and equitable job opportunities," said Baltimore City Comptroller Bill Henry. "That is our only path towards peace."

The U.S. spends over $70 billion taxpayer dollars annually to build and maintain nuclear weapons. The country is currently on track to spend $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years - the equivalent of total U.S. student debt - on new, enhanced and unnecessary nuclear weapons.

"Local leaders around the country understand that nuclear weapons are the greatest threat to public health that we face," said Dr. Ira Helfand, co-founder and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). "We have to understand that these weapons do not make us safe; they are the greatest threat to our security and we need a fundamental change in US nuclear policy based on that reality."

"The elected officials who signed this letter understand that nuclear weapons are a local issue in the same way that a global pandemic or the climate crisis are local issues," said Denise Duffield, associate director of PSR's Los Angeles chapter. "Unfortunately, there is no vaccine, adaptation or mitigation strategies that can protect us from nuclear war. As this campaign continues to grow, I'm confident that Congress can expect to hear from more local elected officials, more municipalities and states, and more concerned constituents about the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons."

The letter signers hope to influence the Biden administration's Nuclear Posture Review, the document that sets U.S. nuclear policy. As the administration crafts the document, security experts are warning that the danger of nuclear war is greater than it has ever been, and recent scientific studies have shown that even a limited nuclear war would cause catastrophic worldwide climate disruption and global famine.

"Local leaders from across the country recognize the clear risk nuclear weapons pose to their communities," said David Combs, senior campaign coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists' (UCS) Global Security Program. "President Biden has worked to reduce the threat of nuclear war throughout his career. He now has the opportunity to make his vision of a safer world a reality by listening to local and state representatives from across the country and adopting the Back from the Brink policies."

The Back From the Brink platform has been endorsed by 53 municipalities and six state legislative bodies, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and over 380 health, environmental, faith and peace organizations including UCS, PSR, Sierra Club, Indivisible, Hip Hop Caucus, Friends of the Earth, Veterans for Peace, Presbyterian Church U.S.A,, and Pax Christi U.S.A.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.