Although President Trump will not attend the inauguration of his successor President-elect Joe Biden, work will go on as usual, including one the most important moments of the Inauguration Day: The handing over of the “nuclear football.”
The “football” contains equipment necessary to authenticate the identity of a President to issue orders and details about how to launch a nuclear strike. It is carried by an aide who is with the President at all times up to his last second in office. Generally, the football is handed over to another military aide close to the president as the new President takes his oath of office.
This Wednesday, there will be some changes in the protocol. Trump is expected to leave Washington DC for Florida before the inauguration. The nuclear football will travel with him. There will be two briefcases present in different locations: Florida and DC.
Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Bulletin Atomic Scientists said that although the process may deviate slightly from the norm, there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure a smooth transition.
In case you wondered, a President cannot just punch in a code or press a button and launch a nuclear strike. Although the President is like a “supreme authority” there are safeguards in place.
Senior military officials have said that although the President has the sole authority to order a nuclear strike, he cannot do it alone. Orders, whether nuclear or conventional, must have a legitimate target. There has to be a clear military objective for the strike and for the use of proportional force.