USA/Russland — Arms Reduction Treaty Would Make U.S. Safer, Officials Say

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2010 — The lead­ers of U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand and the U.S. Mis­sile Defense Agency told a Sen­ate com­mit­tee today that they were close­ly involved in devel­op­ing the new Strate­gic Arms Con­trol and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Treaty, and that they believe it will make the Unit­ed States and its allies safer.

“I was ful­ly con­sult­ed in the nego­ti­a­tion process, and I ful­ly sup­port [the treaty],” Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, Strat­com com­man­der, told the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee dur­ing a hear­ing on the new START treaty.

Three ways the treaty will make the Unit­ed States safer if it’s rat­i­fied, Chilton said, is by lim­it­ing the num­ber of Russ­ian war­heads and vehi­cles that can tar­get the Unit­ed States, allow­ing suf­fi­cient flex­i­bil­i­ty for the Unit­ed States to retain and use its arse­nal, and re-estab­lish­ing ver­i­fi­ca­tion and trans­paren­cy of weapons that end­ed when the pre­vi­ous treaty expired in April 2009.

“What we want is trans­paren­cy and insight to know that either side is com­ply­ing with the treaty,” Chilton said. “I would wor­ry about any abil­i­ty for Rus­sia to make strate­gi­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant changes [to its arse­nal] that we don’t detect and couldn’t respond to.”

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Dmit­ry Medvedev signed the treaty in Prague on April 8. Since then, Defense Depart­ment lead­ers have spo­ken out in sup­port of it on Capi­tol Hill where some law­mak­ers have voiced con­cern that it will weak­en U.S. defens­es or allow Rus­sia an arms advan­tage.

Chilton, along with James N. Miller Jr., prin­ci­pal deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy, and Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, direc­tor of the Mis­sile Defense Agency, tried to allay those con­cerns in today’s tes­ti­mo­ny.

“This treaty does not con­strain any cur­rent [U.S.] mis­sile defense plans,” Chilton said. “America’s nuclear arse­nal remains a vital pil­lar of U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

Asked whether the treaty under­mines secu­ri­ty by not allow­ing the Unit­ed States to con­vert offen­sive mis­sile launch­ers to defen­sive launch­ers, O’Reilly said he “wouldn’t do that any­way,” because it is not pru­dent or oper­a­tional­ly effec­tive.

“I do not see any lim­i­ta­tion on my abil­i­ty to devel­op mis­sile defens­es,” O’Reilly said. “The options that are pro­hib­it­ed are not ones I would choose or any oth­er direc­tor would choose, because it would make us less effec­tive. I see no lim­i­ta­tions to us for the plans we are pur­su­ing.”

The treaty’s lim­its of 1,550 war­heads will allow the Unit­ed States to sus­tain effec­tive nuclear deter­rence, includ­ing a sec­ond strike capa­bil­i­ty. Its lim­it of 700 deployed inter­con­ti­nen­tal and sub­ma­rine-launch bal­lis­tic mis­siles and heavy bombers will allow the Unit­ed States to retain a robust tri­ad.

Also, by pro­vid­ing the free­dom to mix strate­gic forces, the treaty allows for the rebal­anc­ing of weapons over time.

“The Unit­ed States can and will con­tin­ue to expand and improve mis­sile defens­es,” Miller said. The depart­ment is study­ing the appro­pri­ate mix of long-range strike capa­bil­i­ties and will include its con­clu­sions in the fis­cal 2012 bud­get request, he said. Any deploy­ment of bal­lis­tic mis­siles should be lim­it­ed to niche capa­bil­i­ties, he added.

“The new START treaty does not in any way con­strain the U.S. from deploy­ing the most effec­tive nuclear defens­es pos­si­ble,” Miller said. “It allows for the defense of the nation, as well as our forces and allies abroad.”

Chilton said the U.S. nuclear arse­nal today “is safe, secure and effec­tive,” but also is in need of main­te­nance. The Defense Depart­ment plans to invest $100 bil­lion over the next decade to sus­tain and mod­ern­ize its strate­gic nuclear deliv­ery sys­tems, while the Ener­gy Depart­ment plans to invest $80 bil­lion to sus­tain and mod­ern­ize the nuclear stock­pile and weapons com­plex, he said.

“These invest­ments are not only impor­tant, they are essen­tial in my view,” Chilton said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)