The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Representative Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.)

Latest ACA Resources

Karen Yourish
Political Career
St. Louis Board of Aldermen, 1971-76; U.S. House, 1977-present (majority leader, 1989-95; minority leader, 1995-2002); presidential candidate, 1988

Northwestern University, B.S., 1962; University of Michigan, J.D., 1965

Military Service
Missouri Air National Guard, 1965-71


Foreign Policy Advisers
Exclusive adviser: Brett O’Brien

Campaign Website




As the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives for nearly a decade— and a member of Congress since 1976—Richard Gephardt has a long voting record on nonproliferation and arms control efforts. During that time, he has led efforts to end nuclear testing and, more recently, argued for a comprehensive prevention strategy to thwart terrorists from obtaining nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

“In the best of cases, prevention can rely primarily on diplomacy to steer the course of events to our benefit. At times, however, prevention requires resolute action and, if necessary, military intervention,” Gephardt stated on the website of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

In October 2002, Gephardt played a crucial role in helping President George W. Bush win congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq, with the two striking a deal on the outlines of the eventual congressional resolution. He remains supportive of his decision but now calls for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate possible intelligence failures, stating Sept. 28, 2003, on Meet the Press that, “if there hasn’t been one before I’m president, we will have one.”

On most other issues, however, the former House Democratic leader disagrees with the Bush administration’s approach. He is against plans to research and possibly develop and test a new generation of nuclear weapons, stating that the United States “must lead by example on nonproliferation issues, with a continued commitment not to test nuclear weapons or develop systems that unnecessarily provoke other nations to seek destabilizing countermeasures.”

In February 2002, he signed a letter to Bush urging the president’s “clear and unambiguous assurance that…the United States will neither resume underground nuclear test explosions nor pursue the development of new nuclear weapons.” Gephardt wants to see the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratified but believes it would be politically futile to push the issue as long as there is a Republican majority in the Senate.

The Democratic hopeful promises to expand the scope of comprehensive threat reduction efforts to secure weapons of mass destruction (WMD) worldwide, but would first conduct a broad review of how individual comprehensive threat reduction programs are working and where additional money could be well spent. Gephardt asserts that his administration would achieve “tangible improvement” in joint WMD efforts with Russia, in contrast to the Bush administration’s “occasional photo ops.” He supports negotiating an enforcement protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention.

Like most of his Democratic brethren, Gephardt favors negotiating with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program. The two-time presidential candidate would be willing to offer Pyongyang a “tangible path” (i.e., economic incentives) to encourage the country to enter into the international community. On Iran, he wants to put the kibosh on Russian and Pakistani weapons suppliers accused of transferring missile technology and fissile material into the country and believes the International Atomic Energy Agency needs to be pressed to conduct tough inspections after the Iranian parliament approves a recently signed additional protocol to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Gephardt advocates placing more emphasis on developing a strong anti-proliferation agenda with U.S. allies and pursuing verifiable agreements with rogue states that have or want to acquire weapons of mass destruction than on constructing a national missile defense. In an August 2001 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gephardt stated that the United States should continue research on “limited, effective, and affordable missile defense systems,” but that “the U.S. intelligence community has argued that the greatest threats to America and its allies are not ballistic missiles, but terrorism, biological warfare, and an array of other new menaces. We need to take preventative measures and use our resources wisely.”