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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DORGAN. Mr. President, this is a very significant and important issue. As I have indicated previously, we deal with a lot of issues here in the Senate, some less relevant, some more important. We often treat the serious too lightly, and the light too seriously. In this case, I think everybody understands that negotiating a treaty with the Russians dealing with arms reductions is critically important. And that is what this is.

I do not think, when you talk about nuclear weapons, there are other issues that are similar to it. If, God forbid, before sundown today, we learn that a nuclear weapon has been obtained by a terrorist group or a rogue nation and detonated in the middle of a major city on this planet Earth, and hundreds of thousands of people are killed, life on Earth will change forever.

This is a big issue, a very important issue. I just described the horror of a circumstance where a nuclear weapon was detonated in a major city on this planet. We have 25,000 nuclear weapons that exist on this planet. The question is, are we able to find a way to systematically reduce the number of nuclear weapons and, therefore, reduce the threat of the use of nuclear weapons while, at the same time, trying to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue nations?

These days, it seems to me, the question of the nuclear threat is very different than when previous treaties were negotiated. The reason for that is, we have found a new enemy on this planet. It is called terrorism--terrorists who are very happy to give up their lives as long as they can take the lives of others.

That terrorist threat, and the threat that a terrorist organization might acquire a nuclear weapon, and then very happily detonate that nuclear weapon and kill hundreds of thousands of people--innocent people--that is a very serious problem. That is why there is a new urgency to not only arms control and arms reduction negotiations, but to the passage of treaties that are, in fact, negotiated.

We have successfully negotiated various arms control treaties. I will not go through the list of successes, as I did previously. But we have been very successful in reducing the number of nuclear weapons and the number of delivery vehicles--bombers and submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. We have fields in which sunflowers now grow where missiles were once planted with nuclear warheads aimed at our country.

That is a success, in my judgment. There is no doubt that what we have done over the years has been successful. Yet there remain on this planet some 25,000 nuclear weapons.

I have listened to this debate, and I do not believe there is anyone involved in this debate who represents bad faith. I think there are differences of opinion, and I believe people who come here and offer amendments believe in their heart they are pursuing the right strategy. But in some ways it also seems to me to be kind of the three or four stages of denial; that is, you take a position, and when that is responded to, then you take a second position: I wasn't there. If I was there, I didn't do it. If I did it, I am sorry.

The stages of denial are pretty interesting to me. Let me go through a few of them.

The first was, some were very worried in this Chamber that if we proceeded with START without adequately funding the nuclear weapons complex and funding the necessary investments in our current nuclear weapons stockpile, the investments for modernization, the investments for life extension programs, and so on--if we did that without adequate funding for that, that would be a serious problem.

The fact is, President Obama proposed adequate funding in coordination with those who were raising that question. Particularly Senator Kyl was raising that question a great deal. He and I talked about it a substantial amount because I chair the subcommittee that funds the nuclear weapons complex and the life extension programs and the modernization programs.

So while most other areas of the Federal budget were being trimmed or frozen or held static, we increased, at President Obama's request, the nuclear weapons line item in the budget that deals with modernization and life extension programs, and so on. We increased that by nearly 10 percent in FY 2011 budget; and then another 10 percent in the FY 2012 budget President Obama will send Congress in February; and then, on top of a 10-percent increase and a 10-percent increase, another $4 billion increase over the next five years thrown on top of all of that.

I do not think anyone can credibly suggest there is now a problem with funding. The President kept his promise, and then did more than that--two 10-percent increases, taking us to $7.6 billion, and then, on top of that, adding another $4 billion in 5 years. It is hard to find another part of the budget that has been as robustly funded.

Again, as chairman of the subcommittee that funds this, I believe we have done what was necessary, and much more to satisfy the concerns expressed by those who worried that the funding would not be there. This President said it will be there. He made those proposals with two big increases and then an even larger third increase, and that ought to lay to rest that subject for good.

Will our current stockpile be properly maintained with life extension programs and modernization expenditure? The answer is yes. It is clearly yes. The funding has been made available, and there ought not to be debate about that any longer.

Now the question of time. Some have said--and I heard this morning on television one of my colleagues say: Well, this is being rushed through at the end of a session. That is not true. That is an example of what I described previously on the floor of inventing a reality, and then debating off that new invention. It is not true that we are rushing this through. We have had meeting after meeting after meeting. I am on the National Security Working Group, and all through the negotiation with the Russians on this treaty, Republicans and Democrats on that committee were called to secret sessions and briefed all along the way, to say: Here is what is going on. The negotiators would say: Here is where we are. Here is what we are doing. And we were always kept abreast of all of that. So there is nothing at all that is running away quickly at the end of a session to try to get this done.

In fact, this has been delayed much longer than, in my judgment, I would have preferred. But, nonetheless, we are here, and it seems to me this ought not be part of the routine business of the Congress. This is an arms control treaty on nuclear arms reduction. This ought to be one of those areas that rises well above that which is the normal business in a Congress.

But there is no credibility at all to suggest this is being rushed. I can recall day after day sitting in secret sessions with negotiators telling us along the way: Here is what we are doing. They met with Republicans and Democrats. We met altogether in a room in the Capitol Visitor Center and had briefing after briefing after briefing on the National Security Working Group, and it includes most of those in this Chamber who have spoken on this issue.

So it is not the case that there were Members of Congress uninformed about what was happening. All of us were informed. This administration, I thought, did an exceptional job of coming to us to say: We want to keep you advised and informed of what we are doing. It is not the case at the end of this session it is being rushed through. It should have been done a few months ago. I wish it had been, but it has not been. So, therefore, we find ourselves at this intersection. But it should not let anybody believe this is being pushed and rushed without time to consider. All of us have had ample time over many months, and over a year before that, while the negotiations were taking place to seriously consider and be a part of what this is and what it means for our country.

The other issue that is being raised constantly is, it will limit our capabilities with respect to missile defense. Again, it is not the case. I understand what people have been reading in order to make that case. But every living Secretary of State from the Republican and Democratic administrations have come out in favor of this treaty--every one.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has made a very assertive, strong statement in support of this treaty. They didn't do that because somehow we are limited on missile defense. In fact, the President has written to us and said: ``That is not what exists with respect to us and an agreement with the Russians.'' It just is not.

Yesterday, the argument was, well, this doesn't include tactical weapons. No, it doesn't. We do need to limit tactical weapons. I wish it had been a part of the Moscow Treaty. I wish it was part of this treaty. It wasn't. But that doesn't mean we should stop progress on the strategic weapons limitations, a reduction of the number of strategic nuclear weapons.

Why would you not take the progress in the area of limiting strategic nuclear weapons and the delivery of vehicles, airplanes, missiles, submarines, and so on, with which those weapons are delivered--why would you not take the progress that exists with respect to limiting strategic weapons? Of course we should do that. Certainly, I don't disagree at all with those who are worried about tactical weapons. So am I. So is this administration. All of us would have loved to have had an agreement on tactical nuclear weapons 5 and 10 years ago, but that was not possible and it was not the case. So now we work on this, and this provides measurable reductions in the number of nuclear warheads and measurable reductions in the delivery vehicles for those warheads--bombers, missiles, submarines, and so on. It would be unthinkable, it seems to me, for our country to decide that, no, this is not the direction in which we want to move.

As I indicated earlier, on every occasion where we have debated the issue of arms control and arms reduction--understanding it is our responsibility; it falls on the shoulders of this country, the United States, to assume the leadership--on every occasion where we have debated the issue of trying to reduce the number of nuclear weapons on this planet and reduce the number of delivery vehicles and the threat from nuclear weapons, we have done that exclusive of this new threat which now casts a shadow over everything we talk about; that is, the threat of terrorism--a new threat in the last decade--terrorists who are very anxious to take their own lives if they can kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of others. The specter of having a terrorist group acquire a nuclear weapon and detonate that nuclear weapon on this planet will change life on the planet as we know it.

So it is a much more urgent requirement that we finally respond to this by continuing this relentless march to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and try to make certain we keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, to reduce the number of rogue nations that would have nuclear weapons. That is our responsibility. It is our leadership responsibility in this country.

The signal we send to the world with respect to this vote and others dealing with arms control and arms reductions is unbelievably important. That is why this vote in this Chamber at this point is so urgent.

I mentioned terrorism, and it is now a few days before Christmas. Last Christmas, we were reminded about terrorism once again. A man got on an airplane with a bomb sewn in his underwear. Before that he was preceded by a man getting on an airplane with a bomb in his shoe. They were perfectly interested in bringing down an entire plane full of people. The terrorists who were interested in killing several thousand Americans on 9/11/2001 are even more interested in acquiring a nuclear weapon and killing hundreds of thousands of people somewhere in a major city on this planet.

That is why this responsibility, the responsibility of continuing to negotiate and negotiate and negotiate treaties that represent our interests--yes, they have to represent our interests, and this one does. Look at the list of people who support this treaty. I have brought out charts before that show all of the Republicans and Democrats, the folks who have worked on these things for so long, Secretaries of State and military leaders and former Presidents.

It is our responsibility to make progress. Frankly, as I said, I don't suggest there is bad faith on the part of anybody who stood up with their opinion. That is not my suggestion. I think people in this Chamber are people of good faith. But it seems to me that some have not yet understood the increasing urgency now to address this issue. This issue is in our national interests. This issue with the Russians--this treaty with the Russians was negotiated very, very carefully, representing our national interests--yes, on verification, representing our national interests. It represents our interests in every other way. Missile defense--we didn't give up anything with respect to missile defense. So as I hear some of my colleagues come to the floor very concerned about these issues, all of them are responded to easily, in my judgment.

Money--we are spending more money than has ever been spent on the nuclear weapons complex to make sure our nuclear weapons work. Linton Brooks, the previous head of NNSA said: I would have killed for a budget like they now have for the life extension programs and the modernization program. I would have killed for that, he said. He was the man who ran the NNSA under the previous President, President George W. Bush. So money is not an issue. Clearly, that is not an issue.

Time? This is not being pressed into a tiny little corner with an urgent time requirement. This has been delayed and should not have been delayed. But it is sufficiently important to stay here and do this and hope the work that has been done on a bipartisan basis can be supported by the entire Senate.

It is easy to compliment people in the Chamber, and you don't compliment those with whom you disagree, I suppose. But let me compliment Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar because I think the work they have done, which is very strongly bipartisan, to bring this treaty to the floor of the Senate for ratification is a representation of the best of the Senate. It is the way this place really ought to work. Searching out and holding hearings and hearings and hearings, the best thinkers to come and give us advice about all of these issues--they did that. There is nothing this issue is represented by with respect to pushing it into a tight timeframe. They have done this the right way--the right kinds of hearings, the right kind of consultation. Now, they have come to the floor of the Senate saying this is urgent. Let's get this done.

I just wanted to come today--I was driving to work this morning, and I saw the Martin Luther King memorial being built on the Mall. I recalled what he once said. He said, ``The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live.'' He said, ``We have learned the secret of the atom and forgotten the sermon on the mount.''

Well, the secret of the atom is something we have indeed learned. In recent years, the specter of having so many nuclear weapons on this planet and the specter of terrorists acquiring one requires us to be ever more vigilant and to proceed to ratify treaties we negotiate over a long period of time. Again, as I indicated, it is our responsibility.

This responsibility for stopping the arms race rests on our shoulders. Yes, we must do it in our national interests, protecting ourselves as we do. In my judgment, this treaty meets every one of those measures. I am pleased to support it and pleased to be here to say that I hope my colleagues will look at what Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar have done and come to the floor of the Senate with robust support for what I think is outstanding work.

I yield the floor.


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