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APS Board Approves New Statements on Racism, New START Treaty, and Nuclear Testing

August 4, 2020 | David Voss

At its virtual meeting near the end of July, the APS Board of Directors approved three new Board Statements. The statements call for an end to systemic racism in physics, support extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and reaffirm a 2018 APS statement that nuclear testing is not required to ensure reliability of the US nuclear weapons stockpile. All APS Board Statements can be viewed at the Board Statements page.

The APS Board Statement on Racism begins: “The current outrage over the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others has awakened the conviction that without sustained effective action, systemic racism in America will continue to impede full Black participation in many walks of American life, including the field of physics.”

The text notes the decades-long decrease in the percentage of physics bachelor degrees awarded to Black students and refers to the recent TEAM-UP report from the American Institute of Physics on steps needed to reverse the trend. The Statement stresses that “To thrive as an intellectually rigorous, innovative and influential discipline that prizes excellence, our field must encourage participation from all swaths of America’s richly diverse society. Black talents matter.”

The Board Statement on New START calls on the United States and the Russian Federation to sign a five-year extension, explaining that “Without this extension, the treaty will expire on February 5, 2021, leaving the United States and Russia without any nuclear arms limitations treaty or agreement in place for the first time in nearly fifty years.”

According to the Statement, “The US military and intelligence communities have publicly stated these weapons limits and verification provisions are of great value because they provide predictability and transparency with regard to Russia’s nuclear weapons arsenal. The US State Department’s April 2020 report on arms control compliance concludes that Russia remains in compliance with this Treaty.”

The third Board Statement concerns recent reports that some in Congress and the Trump Administration have expressed interest in resuming nuclear testing. In response, the Board Statement reaffirms the 2018 APS statement that "fully informed technical studies have concluded continued testing is not required to retain confidence in the safety and reliability of the remaining nuclear weapons in the United States' stockpile. Resumption of nuclear testing may have serious negative international consequences, particularly on the nonproliferation regime.”

APS Board Statements are one of the three ways that APS officially comments on public policy matters (in addition to APS Public Policy Statements and Unit Statements). In general, any APS member, group of members, or APS Membership Unit may submit a proposal for a statement to the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA).

The APS Board of Directors or its Executive Committee (BEC) may decide that an especially timely issue requires an expedited statement, in which case they will draft a Board Statement, assisted by the POPA Steering Committee. As part of the review process, POPA obtains comments from the APS Public Policy Committee, the APS Council Steering Committee, and the APS Office of Government Affairs.

Following any revisions, the Board approves the statement and it is distributed to the membership. A Board Statement is archived after one year, but may become an APS Public Policy Statement if it goes through a more extensive review. (For details on policies and procedures for APS Statements see the Board & Council Joint Oversight) page.

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