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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DORGAN. Madam President, first of all, let me say that there are big issues and small issues, some of substantial consequence, others that are of minor importance that are debated here on the floor of the Senate.

This is one of those big issues, one of significant importance, not just to us but to the world. While we get involved in a lot of details in this discussion, the question to be resolved in all of the efforts that are made here dealing with nuclear weapons is, Will we be able to find a way to prevent the explosion of a nuclear weapon in a major city on this planet that will kill hundreds of thousands of people?

The answer to that question comes from efforts about whether we are able to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations, and then begin to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

Let me read, for a moment, from Time magazine in 2002. It refers to something that happened exactly 1 month after 9/11, 2001--the terrible attack that occurred in this country by terrorists that murdered over 3,000 Americans.

One month later, October 11, 2001, something happened. It was described in Time magazine because it was not readily known around the rest of the country what had happened. Let me read it:

For a few harrowing weeks last fall--

Referring to October 2001--

a group of U.S. officials believed that the worst nightmare of their lives, something even more horrific than 9/11, was about to come true. In October, an intelligence alert went out to a small number of government agencies, including the Energy Department's top secret Nuclear Emergency Search Team based in Nevada. The report said that terrorists were thought to have obtained a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon from the Russian arsenal and planned to smuggle it into New York City. The source of the report was a mercurial agent code named dragonfire, who intelligence officials believed was of "undetermined'' reliability. But dragonfire's claim tracked with a report from a Russian general who believed that his forces were missing a 10-kiloton nuclear device.

Detonated in lower Manhattan, a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb would kill about 100,000 civilians and irradiate 700,000 more, flattening everything--everything--for a half a mile in diameter. And so counterterrorist investigators were on their highest alert.

I continue the quote:

``It was brutal,'' a U.S. official told Time magazine. It was also a highly classified and closely guarded secret. Under the aegis of the White House's Counterterrorism Security Group, part of the National Security Council, news of the suspected nuke was kept secret so as to not panic the people of New York. Senior FBI officials were not even in the loop. Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he was never told about the threat. In the end, the investigators found nothing and concluded that dragonfire's information was false. But few of them slept better. They had made a chilling realization: If terrorists had, in fact, managed to smuggle a nuclear weapon into a city, there was almost nothing anyone could have done about it.

Here is the number of nuclear weapons on this planet. The story I just read was about one small nuclear weapon, a Russian 10-kiloton nuclear weapon. There are roughly 25,000 nuclear weapons on this Earth. I just described the apoplectic seizure that occurred over the potential of one 10-kiloton nuclear weapon missing, potentially acquired by a terrorist, smuggled to New York City, to be detonated in one of our largest cities.

Russia has about 15,000 nuclear weapons, the United States about 9,000, China a couple hundred, France several hundred, Britain a couple hundred; and the list goes on.

Now the question is, What do we do about all that? Will we just waltz along forever and believe that somehow, some way, we will be lucky enough to make sure nobody ever explodes a nuclear weapon in the middle of a city on this Earth? Because when they do, all life on this planet is going to change. What do we do about that? My colleagues say, let's ratify the START treaty. I fully agree. And there is so much more that needs to be done beyond that. The work that has been done here on the floor of the Senate by my colleagues Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar is extraordinary work.

Senator Lugar is here, and I do not know that he has been here previously when I have done this--and people are tired of my doing it, but it is so important--I have always kept in my desk a small piece of the wing of a Backfire bomber that was given to me. Senator Lugar is responsible for this. This is the piece of a wing of a Backfire bomber. No, we did not shoot it down. Senator Lugar did not shoot it down, nor did our Air Force. We sawed it up. We sawed the wings off the bomber.

How did that happen? It was done by a the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in which we actually paid to destroy a Soviet bomber. It makes a whole lot more sense than being engaged in warfare to shoot down this bomber.

I have--and I will not show it--in my desk a hinge from a missile silo that was in the Ukraine that contained a missile with a nuclear weapon on its tip aimed at the United States of America. It is not there anymore. Sunflower seeds grow where a missile once resided. Because of Nunn-Lugar, the American taxpayers and, especially, importantly, arms negotiations that work. We know this works. This is not a theory. We know it works to reduce the number of nuclear weapons by engaging in negotiations and discussions.

I have heard lots of reasons for us not to do this: too soon; not enough information; not enough detail; more need for consideration--all of those things. I have always talked about Mark Twain who said the negative side of a debate never needs any preparation. So I understand it is easy to come to the floor saying: Do not do this. Do not do this. But it is those who decide to do things who always prevail to make this a safer country when you are talking about weapons policies, nuclear weapons, and arms reduction.

Let me describe why we should do this. First of all, this was negotiated over a long period of time with the interests of our country at heart and with substantial negotiation. I was on the National Security Working Group here in the Senate, and we sat down in secret briefings on many occasions, having the negotiators themselves come back and say to us: Here is what we are doing. Let us explain to you where we are in the negotiations. This treaty did not emerge out of thin air. All of us were involved and had the ability to understand what they were doing.

They negotiated a treaty, and we needed to negotiate that treaty because the circumstances that exist now are that we do not have, given the previous treaties' expiration, the capability to know what the other side is doing--the inspection capability.

Let me describe who supports this treaty. Every former Secretary of State now living, Republican and Democrat: Kissinger, Shultz, Baker, Eagleburger, Christopher, Albright, Powell, Rice--all of them support the treaty. They say it is the right thing for this country, it is important for us to do.

Let me put up especially the comment of Henry Kissinger because he said it this way:

I recommend ratification of this treaty. ..... It should be noted I come from the hawkish side of the debate, so I am not here advocating these measures in the abstract.

He said:

I try to build them into my perception of national interest. I recommend ratification of this treaty.

I just mentioned my colleague Senator Lugar. He had a partnership with our former colleague, Senator Nunn, and it is properly called Nunn-Lugar, and we have talked a lot about it. I have talked about it many times on the floor of this Senate. It is one of the things we should be so proud of having done. I am sure Senator Lugar--I have not talked to him about this--but I am sure he regards it as one of the significant accomplishments of his career, the Nunn-Lugar program.

As a result of that program, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus are now free of nuclear weapons. Think of that--free of nuclear weapons. Albania has no more chemical weapons. Madam President, 7,500 nuclear warheads have been deactivated as a result of this program. The weapons of mass destruction that have been eliminated: 32 ballistic missile submarines, 1,400 long-range nuclear missiles, 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles, 155 bombers that carried nuclear weapons.

It is not hard to see the success of this. I have shown before--and will again--the photographs of what Nunn-Lugar means and its success. You can argue with a lot of things on this floor, but not photographic evidence, it seems to me. Shown in this photograph is the explosion of an SS-18 missile silo that held a missile with a nuclear warhead aimed very likely at an American city.

The silo is gone. The missile is gone. The nuclear warhead is gone. There are now sunflower seeds planted. It is such an important symbol of the success of these kinds of agreements.

This next photograph shows the Nunn-Lugar program eliminating a Typhoon class ballistic missile submarine.

We did not track it in the deep waters of some far away ocean and decide to engage it and succeed in the engagement. We did not do that at all. We paid money to destroy this submarine.

I have the ground-up copper wire in a little vial in this desk from a submarine that used to carry missiles aimed at America.

Here is an example of what happened under Nunn-Lugar, dismantling a Blackjack bomber. We paid to have that bomber destroyed. We did not shoot it down. We did not have to.

Now this START agreement. ADM Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff--I want everybody to understand this because there are some people coming to the floor saying: Well, from a military standpoint, this might leave us vulnerable, short of what we should have. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says:

I, the Vice Chairman, and the Joint Chiefs, as well as our combatant commanders around the world, stand solidly behind this new treaty, having had the opportunity to provide our counsel, to make our recommendations, and to help shape the final agreements.

We stand behind this treaty, representing the best strategic interests of this country.

Finally, with respect to the issue of funding, I want to make some points about that because I chair the subcommittee that funds nuclear weapons here in the Congress. There has been some discussion that there is not ample funding here for modernization of our current weapons programs. That is not the case. It is not true.

Let me describe where we are with respect to funding, and let me predicate that by saying Linton Brooks was the former NNSA Administrator; that is, he ran the program dealing with nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons complex. Here is what he said:

START, as I now understand it, is a good idea on its own merits, but I think for those who think it is only a good idea if you only have a strong weapons program, this budget ought to take care of that.

He said:

Coupled with the out-year projections, it takes care of the concerns about the complex, and it does very good things about the stockpile, and it should keep the labs [the National Laboratories] healthy.

He says: ``I would have killed for this kind of budget.'' I would have killed for this kind of budget. This is the man who understands the money needed to make sure our stockpile of nuclear weapons is a stockpile you can have confidence in.

So this notion that somehow there is an underfunding or a lack of funding for the nuclear weapons life extension programs and modernization programs is sheer nonsense.

Let me describe what we have done. As I said, I chair the subcommittee that funds these programs. The President in his budget proposed robust funding. While most other things were held constant--very little growth, in many cases no growth at all; in some cases, less funding than in the past--the President said for fiscal year 2011, he wanted $7 billion for the life extension programs and modernization for the current nuclear weapons stock, and that is because people are concerned if we were to use our nuclear weapons, are we assured they work. Well, you know what. I don't mean to minimize that, but the fact is we have so many nuclear weapons, as do the Russians and others, that if one works, unfortunately, it would be a catastrophe for this world. In fact, if they are used, it will be a catastrophe. But having said that, the proposal was $7 billion. That was a 10-percent increase over fiscal year 2010.

So then the President came out with a budget for the fiscal year we are now going to be in and he said, All right, in response to the people in the Senate--there were some who were insisting on much more spending--he said, All right, we did a 10-percent increase for that year on the programs to modernize our existing nuclear weapons stock, and we will go to another 10-percent increase for next year, fiscal year 2012. So we have a 10-percent increase, and another 10-percent increase.

I was out in North Dakota traveling down some county highway one day and was listening to the news and they described how money from my Appropriations Committee was going to be increased by another $4 billion for the next 5 years. I am thinking, that is interesting, because nobody has told me about that: $4 billion added to this; first 10 percent, then 10 percent, now $4 billion more. And we have people coming to the floor who have previously talked about the difficulty of the Federal debt, $13 trillion debt, $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit, choking and smothering this country in debt. They are saying, you know what, we don't have enough money. We are getting 10-percent increases, plus $4 billion; still not enough, we want more. And the people who run the place say, I would have killed to get a budget like that.

Someplace somebody has to sober up here in terms of what these numbers mean. I swear, if you play out the numbers for the next 5 years, the commitment this administration has made for the life extension programs and the modernization programs for our existing nuclear weapons stock--there is no question we have the capability to certify that our nuclear weapons program is workable and that we ought to have confidence in it.

I don't understand how this debate has moved forward with the notion that somehow this is underfunded. It is not at all. In fact, there is funding for buildings that have not yet been designed. We don't ever do that. In fact, the money for the nuclear weapons program was the only thing that was stuck in at the last minute in the continuing resolution. All the other government programs are on a continuing resolution which means they are being funded at last year's level, except the nuclear weapons program. That extra money was put in, in the continuing resolution. Why? To try to satisfy those who apparently have an insatiable appetite for more and more and more spending in these areas. We are spending more than at any other time and so much more than anybody in the world has ever spent on these things. So nobody should stand up here with any credibility and suggest this is underfunded. It is not. It is not. The people who understand and run these programs know it is not, yet some here are trying to shove more money into these programs for buildings that haven't even been designed yet. We have never done that before. People know better than that.

Another issue: They say, Well, this is going to limit our ability with respect to antiballistic missile systems. It does not. That has long been discredited. There is nothing here that is going to limit that. They say, Well, but the Russians, they put a provision in that says that they can withdraw because of missile defense--yes, they put that in the last START agreement as well. It doesn't mean anything to us. It is not part of what was agreed to. There is nothing here that is going to limit us with respect to our antiballistic missile programs to protect this country and to protect others.

It is so difficult to think this is some other issue. It is not. One day somebody is going to wake up if we are not smart and if we don't decide that our highest priority is to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and stop the spread of nuclear weapons, one day we will all wake up and we will read a headline that someone has detonated a nuclear weapon somewhere on this planet and killed hundreds of thousands of people in the name of a terrorist act. When that happens, everything about life on this planet is going to change. That is why it is our responsibility. We are the leading nuclear power on Earth. We must lead in this area. I have been distressed for 10 years at what happened in this Senate on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This country never should have turned that down. We did. We are not testing, but we still should have been the first to ratify the treaty.

The question now is, Will we decide to not be assertive and aggressive on behalf of arms control treaties we have negotiated carefully that have strong bipartisan support? Will we decide that is not important? I hope not. It falls on our shoulders here in the United States of America to lead the world on these issues. We have to try to prevent the issues of Korea and Iran and rogue nations and the spread of others who want nuclear--we have to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of those who would use them. Then we have to continue to find ways to reduce the number of nuclear weapons on this Earth. My colleague talked about tactical nuclear weapons. This doesn't involve tactical nuclear weapons. I wish it did, but it doesn't. We have to get through this in order to get to limiting tactical nuclear weapons. The Russians have far more of them than we do, and the quicker we get to that point of negotiating tactical weapons, the better off we are.

In conclusion, I was thinking about how easy it is to come to the floor of the Senate and oppose. The negative side never requires any preparation. That is the case. Mark Twain was right. Abe Lincoln once was in a debate with Douglas and Douglas was propounding a rather strange proposal that Abe Lincoln was discarding and he called it ``as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death.''

Well, you know, I come here and I listen to some of these debates. I respect everybody. I do. Everybody comes here with a point. But I will tell you this: Those who believe this is not in the interest of this country, those who believe we are not adequately funding our nuclear weapon stock, those who believe this is going to hinder our ability for an antiballistic missile system that would protect our country, that is as thin as the homeopathic soup described by Abraham Lincoln. It is not accurate.

This is bipartisan. It is important for the country. We ought to do this sooner, not later.

Let me conclude by saying, the work done by my two colleagues is strong, assertive, bipartisan work that builds on some very important work for the last two decades, Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar--I don't know whether there will be ever be a Kerry-Lugar, but there was a Nunn-Lugar that has been so important to this country and to the safety and security of this world. I hope this is the next chapter in building block by block by block this country's responsibility to be a world leader in saying, We want a world that is safer by keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of those who don't have them, and then aggressively negotiating to try to reduce the nuclear weapons that do now exist.

Some months ago I was at a place outside of Moscow where my colleague Senator Lugar has previously visited, and that facility is devoted to the training and the security of nuclear weapons. I suspect Senator Lugar, because he knows a lot about this and has worked a lot on it for a long time, thinks a lot about those issues, as do I. Are we certain that these 25,000 nuclear weapons spread around the world are always secure, always safe, will never be subject to theft? The answer to that is no, but we are trying very hard. This treaty is one more step in the attempt we must make to exercise our leadership responsibility that is ours. So my compliments to Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar and to all of the others who are engaged in this discussion and who have worked so hard and have done so for decades on these nuclear weapons issue and arms reduction issues.

I yield the floor.

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