White House, DOD Urge Senate to Ratify START Treaty

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)

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