The policy has been in place since the end of World War II, but Obama is considering reversing course, arguing that a first strike nuclear attack all but assures the destruction of the U.S. from a retaliatory strike from countries with large nuclear arsenals such as Russia or China.
But U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, both Republicans, contend that changing the strategy gives an advantage to terrorist organizations and "hostile countries."
"Establishing a no first use policy ... would severely reduce the value of our nuclear deterrent, limit the options of America's future leaders to safeguard the legacy of peace, and undermine the credibility of our alliances," the senators wrote. "As you are well aware, some hostile countries possess biological, chemical, and radiological weapons that have the potential to kill scores of Americans or allied citizens. Terrorist organizations actively seek the expertise to build their own weapons and steal material from countries that possess it. It would be exceedingly unwise to forgo the option of a nuclear strike against such enemies to end a conflict on terms favorable to the United States and its allies."
The senators noted that members of Obama's cabinet, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz all support continuing the first-strike policy.