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Letter to President Obama

U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is leading a group of freshman Republican Senators in calling on President Obama to fulfill his commitment to modernize the U.S. nuclear complex and strategic delivery systems. In a letter sent today to the president, the senators note that the administration's failure to commit to nuclear modernization, combined with the reductions mandated by New START, poses additional risk to U.S. and global security. In addition to Senator Ayotte, the letter was signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Dan Coats (R-IN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

"Those of us who came to the Senate after the New START was ratified, and who were already skeptical of the treaty's merits, will watch closely to see how these commitments are carried out," the senators wrote. "A failure to honor past nuclear modernization commitments will impact our willingness to support New START implementation and any future treaties related to our nuclear weapons complex."

They continued: "While our nation's fiscal crisis demands that we make difficult budget decisions, failing to address our nation's nuclear modernization requirements will add a needless national security crisis to our nation's fiscal crisis. Reductions to nuclear force levels mandated by New START cannot be made without unacceptable risk unless the arsenal and the weapons complex are modernized."

In order to persuade the Senate to ratify the New START Treaty, the administration committed to modernizing the United States nuclear complex and strategic delivery systems. The fiscal year (FY) 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required that the administration submit a 10-year modernization plan, and in November 2010, the administration pledged to provide sufficient funding for nuclear modernization. However, President Obama's FY 2013 budget proposal fails to honor that commitment and does not adequately address the nation's nuclear modernization needs.

FRESHMAN REPUBLICAN SENATORS LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to request that the administration honor its past commitment to modernize the United States nuclear weapons complex. Your budget proposal currently underfunds nuclear modernization, endangering our nation's nuclear deterrent and the security of all Americans.

A reliable and modern nuclear deterrent is central to American national security. A credible nuclear arsenal deters potential enemies from launching a nuclear attack against our country or our allies. A strong and dependable U.S. nuclear deterrent also helps prevent nuclear proliferation by assuring friendly nations that a nuclear program is unnecessary. When the U.S. fails to maintain a reliable and modern nuclear deterrent we undermine these objectives which are central to the security of our country.

The Senate's ratification of the New START Treaty was contingent on the administration's commitment to modernize the United States nuclear complex and strategic delivery systems. Section 1251 of the fiscal year (FY) 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) required that the administration submit a 10-year modernization plan. In response to this statutory requirement, in November 2010, the administration pledged to provide sufficient funding over the next five years relative to the initial plan provided to Congress in May 2010. Unfortunately, your budget proposal fails to honor these commitments and does not adequately address our nation's growing nuclear modernization needs.

One consequence of this failure to provide adequate funds for nuclear modernization is the delay in the start of construction for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This facility, which supports our nuclear stockpile and warhead life extensions, is critical to the credibility of our nation's nuclear stockpile which has deterred our enemies and kept the peace for decades. The current facility is 50 years old and was originally scheduled to be replaced by 2021 according to the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which also noted that replacement of this facility is one of the "key investments...required to sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal." During a March 27, 2012, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Commander of Strategic Command, General Robert Kehler, testified that this CMRR facility was critical to our country's nuclear modernization and expressed concern that the construction of the CMRR facility, under your budget proposal, would be delayed by five to seven years.

The Senate Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification required the administration to provide a justification when nuclear modernization funding fails to match prior commitments. This requirement was triggered in December 23, 2011, when you signed the FY 2012 Omnibus Bill that did not fully fund the 1251 plan. This plan was due in February, and as of the date of this letter, the administration has not provided this report to Congress.

For those who voted in favor of New START, the commitment to nuclear modernization was deemed essential. Those of us who came to the Senate after the New START was ratified, and who were already skeptical of the treaty's merits, will watch closely to see how these commitments are carried out. A failure to honor past nuclear modernization commitments will impact our willingness to support New START implementation and any future treaties related to our nuclear weapons complex.

While our nation's fiscal crisis demands that we make difficult budget decisions, failing to address our nation's nuclear modernization requirements will add a needless national security crisis to our nation's fiscal crisis. Reductions to nuclear force levels mandated by New START cannot be made without unacceptable risk unless the arsenal and the weapons complex are modernized.

We welcome the opportunity to work with your administration to ensure the United States maintains the safe and reliable nuclear deterrent that has protected our nation for decades.


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