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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT -- (Senate - July 29, 2009)

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank Senator Kyl and Senator Levin for working out a second-degree amendment last week to Senator Kyl's earlier amendment, No. 1760, to the National Defense Authorization Act relating to the post-START agreement that the United States is negotiating with the Russian Federation. In my view, the earlier amendment--and section 1239 of the House version of the NDAA, on which that amendment was based--would have undermined the constitutional role of the Senate as the body that considers treaties, as well as the President's role in negotiating treaties. The Senate decided wisely not to adopt the House approach of trying to bar U.S. compliance with a treaty before the treaty has even been negotiated. The substitute amendment we adopted last week was a good result.

The bill approved by the Senate, as amended by Senator Kyl's modified amendment, would require the President to report to the Congress on his plan to enhance the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, to modernize the nuclear weapons complex, and to maintain the delivery platforms. I would encourage the administration to see that requirement not as a burden, but as an opportunity. If U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty is to be approved by the Senate, Members will have to be convinced that the executive branch is prepared to sustain our nuclear deterrence by maintaining a stockpile of safe, secure, and reliable nuclear weapons, without resorting to nuclear testing. This report requirement underscores that concern and the need to address it forthrightly.

I believe that this administration has the will to maintain our nuclear stockpile, and the successes of stockpile stewardship over the last decade have been greater than even its proponents predicted when we last considered CTBT. The report required by this amendment would offer an opportunity to explain to the Senate how far we have come, where we are going next, and how we will fund stockpile stewardship to ensure that we will sustain our deterrent posture even as the United States works with other countries to reduce the numbers and importance of these weapons worldwide. It may be only a preliminary report, if the National Defense Authorization Act is enacted well before the Nuclear Posture Review and the President's fiscal year 2011 budget request are completed, but it will still be an opportunity to educate the Senate.

The Kyl amendment as modified also states that the Senate urges the President to maintain his position that the post-START agreement will not contain limitations on ballistic missile defense systems, space capabilities, or advanced conventional weapons systems of the United States. I am absolutely confident, based on the Obama-Medvedev statements of April 1 and July 6, 2009, that their instructions to negotiators are not to include such limitations in the agreement.

For example, there will be ``a provision on the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms,'' but ``a provision'' does not mean a limitation on U.S. missile defense or space capabilities. Similarly, the existing START Treaty has ``a provision'' regarding antiballistic missile systems but does not limit those systems.

Regarding the Senate's desire to avoid limitations on ``advanced conventional weapons,'' I would just emphasize that the adoption of this substitute amendment is not intended to be a backdoor way to oppose limitations on strategic delivery vehicles.

In short, I believe that the Kyl substitute amendment adopted last week should do no harm and that the administration can use it to begin the process of educating the Senate on a matter we will have to address in any event. Again, I commend Senators KYL and LEVIN for reaching this result.


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