WASHINGTON, May 18, 2010 – Saying the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty strengthens America’s defenses, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today urged the Senate to ratify the pact between the United States and Russia.
Gates testified about the treaty before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen lent their voices at the hearing in support of the treaty.
The treaty allows the Defense Department to maintain a strong and effective nuclear deterrent while modernizing the weapons to ensure that they are safe, secure and reliable, Gates said.
„This treaty reduces the strategic nuclear forces of our two nations in a manner that strengthens the strategic stability of our relationship and protects the security of the American people and our allies,“ the secretary said. „America’s nuclear arsenal remains a vital pillar of our national security, deterring potential adversaries and reassuring allies and partners.“
Under the treaty, the United States has an upper boundary of 1,550 deployed warheads; up to 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable heavy bombers; and up to 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments, Gates said.
„Under this treaty, we retain the power to determine the composition of our force structure, allowing the United States complete flexibility to deploy, maintain and modernize our strategic nuclear forces in a manner that best protects our national-security interests,“ he said.
The Defense Department will retain 240 deployed SLBMs, distributed among 14 submarines, each of which will have 20 launch tubes. This is the most survivable leg of the triad, and reducing the number of missiles carried on each submarine from 24 to 20 will facilitate Navy planning for the Ohio-class submarine replacement, Gates explained.
Manned bombers provide flexibility to the mix, and the United States will retain up to 60 deployed heavy bombers, including all 18 operational B-2s. At the same time, the Air Force is planning for a long-range strike replacement and plans to convert a number of B-52Hs to a conventional-only role.
„Finally, the U.S. will retain up to 420 deployed single-warhead Minuteman 3 ICBMs at our current three missile bases,“ Gates said.
Clinton stressed that the treaty does not affect U.S. missile-defense plans.
„Nothing in the new START treaty constrains our missile-defense efforts,“ she said. „Russia has issued a unilateral statement on missile defense, expressing its views. We have not agreed to this view, and we are not bound by this unilateral statement.“
In fact, the United States intends to continue improving and deploying the missile-defense systems, Clinton said.
The new START does not restrict U.S. ability to develop and deploy prompt global strike or prompt conventional strike capabilities that could attack targets anywhere on the globe in an hour or less, Gates said.
„In my view, a key contribution of this treaty is its provision for a strong verification regime,“ the defense secretary said. „The treaty provides a firm basis for monitoring Russia’s compliance with its treaty obligations while also providing important insights into the size and composition of Russian strategic forces.“
The treaty allows each party to conduct up to 18 on-site inspections each year at operating bases for ICBMs, SSBNs and nuclear-capable heavy bombers, as well as storage facilities, test ranges and conversion and elimination facilities. The agreement establishes a database that will be initially populated 45 days after the treaty enters into force and updated every six months thereafter that will help to provide the United States with a rolling overall picture of Russia’s strategic offensive forces, the secretary said.
The new treaty also allows both parties to track the movement and changes in status of the strategic offensive arms covered by the treaty. Each ICBM, SLBM, and nuclear-capable bomber will have a unique identifier.
Finally, the treaty provides for noninterference with national technical means of verification, such as reconnaissance satellites, ground stations and ships. „This provides us with an independent method of gathering information that can assist in validating data declarations,“ Gates said.
But to be an effective deterrent, nuclear weapons must be safe, secure and reliable, the defense secretary said, and the U.S. nuclear arsenal requires reinvigoration.
„That is, our infrastructure and our science, technology and engineering base,“ he said. „To this end, the Department of Defense is transferring $4.6 billion to the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration through fiscal year 2015. This transfer will assist in funding critical nuclear weapons life-extension programs and efforts to modernize the nuclear weapons infrastructure.“
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)