USA — Gates, Clinton Urge Senate to Ratify Nuke Treaty

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)