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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - On the New START Treaty

Location: Washington, DC

Today the Committee meets to review the implementation of the New START Treaty and to engage in a broader examination of U.S. nuclear policy. I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing, and I commend Senator Corker for his efforts on this issue. We welcome back to the Committee Acting Undersecretary Rose Gottemoeller. We welcome to the Committee for the first time Thomas D'Agostino, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Security Affairs.

The Foreign Relations Committee approved the New START Treaty on September 16, 2010, by a vote of 14-4, after acting on dozens of amendments to the resolution of ratification and considering answers to more than a thousand questions for the record submitted in 12 hearings and multiple briefings. The Senate approved the Treaty by a vote of 71-26 on December 22, 2010, after considering and voting on almost 40 amendments to both the Treaty and the resolution of ratification in eight days of floor debate.

We should not fail to appreciate the importance of what was achieved in December 2010. The final result occurred because a coalition of Senators from both parties joined to bolster the twin pillars of American nuclear strategy--arms control and modernization. The legislative process resulted not only in the approval of the Treaty, but also a commitment to spend $185 billion over 10 years to modernize nuclear warheads and delivery systems. This was a rational policy outcome that bolstered U.S. national security.

In my judgment, both the New START agreement and the nuclear modernization commitments were justified, even without reference to each other. It was essential to continue limits on Russian strategic nuclear forces and to ensure transparent inspections. It also was essential that the United States adopt a plan for badly needed updates of our nuclear infrastructure and arsenal. In other words, joining these two policies was not merely a marriage of convenience or a case of legislative log rolling. Both were good policies made even stronger by being accepted in the same political and policy context.

The outcome of the New START and nuclear modernization debate also represented an expression of unity and clarity in an area of national security policy where these attributes are key contributors to success. Nuclear policy is not an inconsequential seminar topic where players can score political points without incurring negative policy ramifications. Every aspect of our nuclear policy and the accompanying debates are scrutinized by the Russians, the Chinese, our allies, and even rogue states. This does not preclude vigorous debate. But in the end, we should attempt to reach consensus because it is good for U.S. national security. At the very least, we must project a unified purpose.

The New START Treaty approval, accompanied by nuclear modernization commitments, established a solid basis for strategic nuclear policy for a decade going forward. It provided clarity to allies regarding the U.S. nuclear umbrella; it ensured the potency of our nuclear deterrent; it achieved transparency with respect to Russia's nuclear programs; and it was a foundation upon which talks with Russia on tactical nuclear weapons could be based. The debate was not an easy one, but the outcome established a credible, broad-based plan for nuclear policy going forward.

Like Senator Corker, I was among those who sought and obtained multiple assurances relating to the Triad of American land-, air- and sea-based strategic forces to ensure sufficient support in the Senate for the New START Treaty. I am deeply concerned about the state of nuclear planning and programming within the Defense Department and the Services regarding the Triad. I am also very concerned by attempts to force U.S. withdrawal from the New START Treaty or suspend its implementation. We should not risk either the transparency achieved by the Treaty nor the reliability and performance of our strategic nuclear forces. Our goal should be to ensure robust implementation of New START, while re-affirming and funding commitments on modernization.

With regard to nuclear weapons, more broadly, it is my understanding that the Administration may soon complete its implementation study for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review. Stories have appeared in the media that the Administration is considering levels of nuclear weapons lower than those in Article II of the New START Treaty. I hope our witnesses can clarify the President's position.

I simply would say that our country is strongest and our diplomacy is most effective when nuclear policy is made by deliberate decisions in which both the legislative and executive branches fully participate. This process should begin with the President of the United States. As the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief, he needs to engage with Congress on this topic personally, and he needs to weigh in more heavily on nuclear funding decisions.

Lastly, I would note that the Nunn-Lugar Umbrella Agreement with Russia expires next year. I would appreciate an update regarding the status of our negotiations with Russia on the umbrella agreement.

I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.

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