The Senate will challenge Trump's ability to use nuclear weapons whenever he wants

If President Donald Trump wants to fire any number of U.S. nuclear weapons at virtually any target on earth, nobody, not the Secretary of Defense, not Congress, and not even the nuclear launch officer underground in a silo pressing the button could stop him.

But on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing over the president's authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

While the hearing nominally will look at the structure of nuclear command and control that has served all presidents, it's headed by one of Trump's most vocal critics in the ranks of Senate Republicans, Bob Corker.

Just a month ago, Corker scolded Trump for acting in a way he found childish, saying that "the White House has become an adult day care center." He warned that Trump's brash style of leadership could send the U.S. "on the path to World War III."

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How to survive a nuclear attack
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How to survive a nuclear attack

What should you do in the event of a nearby nuclear attack? Click through to learn more. 

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Seek shelter immediately, towards the center of a building or -- preferably -- a basement. Aim for the same type of shelter you would utilize in the event of a tornado. 

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The next three slides are examples of nuclear shelters that exist around the world. 

(Image via Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

The entrance of Shelter Co.'s nuclear shelter model room, which is placed in the basement of the company's CEO Seiichiro Nishimoto's house, is pictured in Osaka, Japan April 26, 2017. (Photo via REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
A fallout shelter sign hangs on the Mount Rona Baptist Church, on August 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. In the early 60's Washington was at the center of civil defense preparations in case of a nuclear blast, with over one thousand dedicated public fallout shelters in schools, churches and government buildings. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A 'shelter' sign is displayed at the entrance to a subway station in Seoul on July 6, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. According to the metropolitan government, South Korea's city subway stations serve a dual purpose with over 3,300 designated as shelters in case of aerial bombardment including any threat from North Korea. The U.S. said that it will use military force if needed to stop North Korea's nuclear missile program after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday into Japanese waters. The latest launch have drawn strong criticism from the U.S. as experts believe the ICBM has the range to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Dense materials, including dirt or thick walls, provide the best defense to fallout radiation.

(Photo via Getty Images)

If possible, take a warm shower -- but do not use conditioner, as it can bond to nuclear particles. 

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Do not seek shelter in a car, as they won't provide adequate protection, and you should not attempt to outrun nuclear fallout. 

(Photo by Noel Hendrickson via Getty Images)

The nuclear fallout zone shrinks quickly after an attack, but the less dangerous "hot zone" still grows. 

(Image via Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Once you are sheltered, do not leave. Listen to a radio or other announcements. 

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Additionally, Trump has extensively explored the idea of preemptive war with North Korea, a rogue nuclear nation he has verbally sparred with and threatened to "totally destroy."

"This discussion is long overdue," Corker said of the hearing on the president's authority to use nuclear weapons. 

Corker and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee don't stand alone in their will to see the president's nuclear powers revisited.

Shortly after Trump's inauguration in January, Democrats in the House introduced a protest bill designed to curb Trump's ability to issue a nuclear first strike without Congressional approval.

Congress authorizes the use of military force, but nuclear powers remain firmly under the grip of the president, and have since the dawn of the nuclear era.

While few dispute that adding Congressional approval to nuclear launch procedures would add credibility and a democratic aspect to any U.S. engagement in nuclear war, the logistics of such a system are challenging.

As Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a supporter of the current system, described in late October, the system is streamlined for quick decision-making.

An intercontinental ballistic missile could travel halfway around the globe and hit the U.S. in less than a half hour.

The U.S. would find out about it shortly after launch due to satellites and radars that scan the globe, but the president wouldn't have more than 10 or so minutes to respond.

Within this window of time, it's hard to imagine Congressional approval going through. Additionally, if the president received information that North Korea would quickly commence an all-out attack on South Korea, a decision whether or not to act on that intelligence would need to follow shortly.

Some argue that the military should have the capacity to deny the president's order, but that would erode the civilian control of the country. Also, in fraught times like the Cuban missile crisis, the military wanted to use nuclear weapons, and the president did not.

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President's 'nuclear football'
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President's 'nuclear football'

A military aide carries the president's nuclear 'football' as US President Barack Obama returns to the White House , May 15, 2016 in Washington, DC. 

(OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images)

Two military aides carry the nuclear football as they prepare to travel with U.S. President Donald Trump on Marine One at the White House, on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is making an unnannounced trip to Dover Air Force bace in Delaware to pay his respects to Chief Special Warfare Operator William 'Ryan' Owens, who was killed during a raid in Yemen. Owens is the first active military service member to die in combat during Trump's presidency.

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US President Donald Trump leaves the CIA headquarters after speaking to 300 people on January 21, 2017 in Langley, Virginia . Trump spoke with about 300 people in his first official visit with a government agency. In the background a military aid carries the 'football', with launch codes for nuclear weapons.

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Military aides carry the nuclear football as they walk to Marine One to travel with U.S. President Barack Obama from the White House, on January 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Obama is traveling to Chicago where he will deliver his farewell speech.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

A military aide carries the 'football,' a case with he launch codes for nuclear weapons, as he follows U.S. President Barack Obama across the South Lawn before boarding Marine One and departing the White House August 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama is traveling to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to survey historic flooding that has damaged more almost 70,000 homes and killed at least 13 people.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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In pressing situations that call for a quick decision on the use of nuclear force, it's unclear how Congress could enter into the process.

"The fact is that no president, Republican or Democrat, has ever forsworn the first-strike capability," Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October. "That has served us for 70 years."

Nuclear force has been used exactly twice in history, both times by the U.S. on Japan near the close of World War II.

Meanwhile, use of conventional military force does require Congressional approval, but has been going on continuously for 16 years in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, costing thousands of U.S. lives and trillions of dollars.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will interview retired U.S. Air Force General C. Robert Kehler; Peter D. Feaver, a professor of political science at Duke University; and Brian McKeon, who formerly acted as the undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon. 

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SEE ALSO: Mattis explains how the US would respond if North Korea launched a nuclear missile at America

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