WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2010 — President Barack Obama today urged the Senate to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before it goes out of session in December, and Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell echoed that call.
“We have negotiated with the Russians significant reductions in our nuclear arms,” Obama said after a Cabinet meeting at the White House. “This is something that traditionally has received strong bipartisan support.”
Ratification of the treaty would “send a strong signal to Russia that we are serious about reducing nuclear arsenals,” the president said, and also would send a signal to all nations that the United States is serious about nonproliferation.
“We’ve made great progress when it comes to sending a message to Iran that they are isolated internationally, in part because people have seen that we are serious about taking our responsibilities when it comes to nonproliferation,” he said. “And that has to continue.”
Later in the day, Morrell also called on the Senate to act quickly on START. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and former defense and national security leaders from both parties have expressed their support for the treaty, he noted.
“This treaty is absolutely critical to the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal, our knowledge of Russian nuclear capabilities and U.S. national security overall,” Morrell said.
“We’re advancing it at this time and pushing for ratification because we need this. And we need it sooner, rather than later.”
The previous START pact has lapsed, and along with it, the provisions for verification also have lapsed, Morrell noted.
“So we hope the … Senate will address this as quickly as possible when they reconvene after … the recess for the elections,” he said. “There’s no sense in putting off what we need now to the next Congress.”
Morrell said urging action to be taken soon doesn’t mean Pentagon officials think ratification stands a better chance in the current Congress than it would with the next Congress. “We’re advancing this now because we think it is the right thing to do,” he said. “It is what’s needed by our country at this time.”
The law that bans openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military is another legislative issue on Congress’ plate. The president, Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all support the careful, studied repeal of the law.
No one knows what Congress will do with the law, Morrell said, but the department is moving forward with a study on how to proceed if the law is repealed. A DOD review panel co-chaired by DOD General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and Army Gen. Carter F. Ham is on track to deliver a report to Gates on Dec. 1, he added.
“So I think in … 26 days’ time, the secretary will have the work product that he thinks is so necessary for us to be able to fully understand the full implications of a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and then what additional measures we need to take … in preparation for that eventuality,” Morrell said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)