Today the President submitted the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) – an arms control agreement with Russia that he signed last month in Prague -- to the United States Senate. Before the Treaty can be ratified, the Senate must provide its advice and consent by a two-thirds majority. Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will open formal hearings on the treaty, with Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen scheduled to testify. Over the coming weeks, the Committee is likely to hold several hearings with other Administration witnesses, as well as with former officials from both Democratic and Republican Administrations. Two other Senate committees – Armed Services and Intelligence - will also hold hearings on the Treaty.
In addition to the Treaty, the President also sent a report to Congress required by last year’s National Defense Authorization Act on our plan to modernize our nuclear weapons complex and the strategic systems used to deliver nuclear weapons (long-range missiles and bombers) over the next decade. This plan includes a projection for the funds needed over the next ten years to meet these modernization requirements.
The report is largely classified, but because of the public’s interest in the issue, we are releasing an unclassified summary that highlights how we plan to reduce our forces but maintain a nuclear triad (land- and sea-based ballistic missiles and long-range bombers) under the Treaty. The U.S. military strongly favors the Treaty in large part because it allows the United States significant flexibility in how we structure and deploy our nuclear forces – including retaining this triad – to meet nuclear deterrence requirements.
The report also underscores that the President is committed to rebuilding our nuclear weapons infrastructure and our workforce that maintains our weapons. The President wants to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our security policy, but has made clear that as long as we rely on nuclear weapons, they must be safe, secure and effective. That’s why he has increased the budget for our nuclear weapons complex by nearly 10% in the coming fiscal year, and committed to spend $80 billion over the next decade. These investments reverse a period of declining budgets for our nuclear weapons complex that both Democrats and Republicans believe must be reversed. The President recognizes that we need to make these investments, not only to maintain our nuclear deterrent for us and our allies, but also because the nuclear complex and its scientists and engineers play a critical role in verifying nuclear agreements, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and detecting nuclear smuggling here and abroad.
We believe the agreement makes Americans safer and hope that the Senate will continue the history of the past two decades of overwhelming bipartisan support for nuclear reduction agreements.
The Secretary of Defense makes the case for the Treaty today on the oped page of the Wall Street Journal.
Brian McKeon is a senior adviser to the NSC and Deputy National Security Adviser to the Vice President