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U.S. Military Leaders and Bipartisan National Security Officials Overwhelmingly Support New START

Volume 1, Number 44, December 16, 2010

On Dec. 16, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright said "all the Joint Chiefs are very much behind this treaty...we need START and we need it badly."  The Joint Chiefs' support for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is broadly shared by senior U.S. military leaders and former national security officials from both sides of the aisle, including President George H.W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice, sectrateary of state to President George W. Bush.

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed New START in April. Since then, there has been an extensive public debate on the merits of the treaty. Senate committees have held 18 public hearings and four briefings on New START, and the administration has answered 1,000 questions regarding the treaty.  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty on Sept. 16, with a bipartisan vote of 14-4, and the full Senate voted 66-32 on Dec. 15 to begin debate on the treaty, with nine Republican senators in support.

Throughout this eight-month process, one fact has become unmistakably clear: military opinion overwhelmingly supports prompt U.S. ratification of New START. The current U.S. military leadership strongly favors the treaty. Seven former commanders of the U.S. Strategic Command support it as well. Indeed, a Secretary of Defense or State from every administration since Richard Nixon's is on record in support of New START.

Below is a sample of the most notable statements of support for New START:

Current U.S. Military Leaders

Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense; Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2010:

  • "The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America's military leadership--to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent. For nearly 40 years, treaties to limit or reduce nuclear weapons have been approved by the U.S. Senate by strong bipartisan majorities. This treaty deserves a similar reception and result--on account of the dangerous weapons it reduces, the critical defense capabilities it preserves, the strategic stability it maintains, and, above all, the security it provides to the American people."

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Senate Armed Services Committee, June 17, 2010:

  • "I am pleased to add my voice in support of ratification of the New START treaty and to do so as soon as possible. We are in our seventh month without a treaty with Russia. This treaty has the full support of your uniformed military . . . the conclusion and implementation of the New START Treaty is the right thing for us to do - and we took the time to do it right."

General Kevin Chilton, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 16, 2010:

  • "If we don't get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development of force structure and... we have no insight into what they're doing. So it's the worst of both possible worlds."

Lt. General Patrick O'Reilly, Missile Defense Agency Director; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 16, 2010:

  • "Throughout the treaty negotiations, I frequently consulted the New START team on all potential impacts to missile defense. The New START Treaty does not constrain our plans to execute the U.S. Missile Defense program."

General James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, September 2, 2010:

  • "I believe the treaty limitation of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles imposed by New START provides a sound framework for maintaining stability and allows us to maintain a strong and credible deterrent that ensures our national security while moving to lower levels of strategic nuclear forces."

Lt. General Frank G. Klotz, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command; Defense Writers Group breakfast, November 9, 2010:

  • "My sense is that the START Treaty ought to be ratified and ought to be ratified as soon as possible."
  • "I think [the recent missile incident at Warren Air Force Base] has absolutely no link at all to the START Treaty."

Former U.S. Military Leaders

General Larry Welch, General John Chain, General Lee Butler, Admiral Henry Chiles, General Eugene Habiger, Admiral James Ellis, and General Bennie Davis, former commanders of Strategic Air Command and U.S. Strategic Command; letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, July 14, 2010:

  • "We will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it. For example, the treaty permits on-site inspections that will allow us to observe and confirm the number of warheads on individual Russian missiles; we cannot do that with just national technical means of verification."
  • "The New START Treaty will contribute to a more stable U.S.-Russian relationship. We strongly endorse its early ratification and entry into force."

James R. Schlesinger, former Secretary of Defense and former Director of Central Intelligence, Nixon and Ford administrations; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 29, 2010:

  • "I think that it is obligatory for the United States to ratify [New START]...[F]or the United States at this juncture to fail to ratify the treaty in the due course of the Senate's deliberation would have a detrimental effect on our ability to influence others with regard to particularly the nonproliferation issue."

William J. Perry, former Secretary of Defense, Clinton administration; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 29, 2010:

  • "[T]he New START Treaty is a positive step in U.S.-Russia arms negotiations. This treaty establishes a ceiling on strategic arms while allowing the United States to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. This treaty does not limit America's ability to structure its offensive arsenal to meet current or future threats, nor does it prevent the future modernization of the American nuclear arsenal. Additionally, the treaty puts no meaningful limits our Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense program, and in fact it reduces restrictions that existed under the previous START treaty. I recommend ratification."

Former U.S. Senior Government Officials

Colin L. Powell, former Secretary of State, George W. Bush administration; Howard Baker, former Senator (R-TN); Harold Brown, former Secretary of Defense, Carter administration; Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense, Reagan administration; John C. Danforth, former Senator (R-MO); Kenneth M. Duberstein, former White House Chief of Staff, Reagan administration; Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, former Senator (R-KS); Thomas Kean, former Governor and 9/11 Commission Chair (R-NJ); Warren Rudman, former Senator (R-NH); and Alan Simpson, former Senator (R-WY); joint statement, June 24, 2010:

  • "Now is the time for a thorough and balanced national discussion about nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. But we must remember that a world without a binding U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons agreement is a much more dangerous world. We, the undersigned Republicans and Democrats, support the new START treaty..."

Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, Clinton administration; Samuel Berger, former National Security Advisor, Clinton administration; Ambassador Richard Burt, U.S. chief negotiator of START I; Chuck Hagel, former Senator(R-NE); Admiral William Owens, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and George Shultz, former Secretary of State, Reagan administration; joint statement, September 28, 2010:

  • "Currently, we have no verification regime to account for Russia's strategic nuclear weapons. Two hundred and ninety seven (297) days have elapsed since American teams have been allowed to inspect Russian nuclear forces, and we are concerned that further inaction will bring unacceptable lapses in U.S. intelligence about Russia's strategic arsenal.  Without New START, we believe that the United States is less secure.

    As part of the vast consensus of national security professionals who have endorsed New START, we respectfully call on the Senate to ratify the New START Treaty in 2010."

James Baker, former Secretary of State, George H.W. Bush administration; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 19, 2010:

  • "[New START] appears to take our country in a direction that can enhance our national security while at the same time reducing the number of nuclear warheads on the planet."

Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, Nixon and Ford administrations; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, May 25, 2010:

  • "The current agreement is a modest step forward stabilizing American and Russian arsenals at a slightly reduced level. It provides a measure of transparency; it reintroduces many verification measures that lapsed with the expiration of the last START agreement; it encourages what the Obama administration has described as the reset of political relations with Russia; it may provide potential benefits in dealing with the issue of proliferation."

Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor, Ford and George H.W. Bush administrations; Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 10, 2010:

  • "[T]he principal result of non-ratification would be to throw the whole nuclear negotiating situation into a state of chaos, and the reason this treaty is important is over the decades we have built up all these counting rules, all these verification procedures and so on, so that each side feels, 'Yes, we can take these steps.' If you wipe those out, you're back to zero again..."

Linton F. Brooks, former START I negotiator and former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Bush administration; Arms Control Association briefing, April 7, 2010:

  • "[Y]ou'll hear concerns by some that the treaty may or may not be a good idea but you can't possibly accept it because the U.S. nuclear weapons program is in disarray. And I think the administration's answer to that is the fiscal 2011 budget with a very substantial increase for my former home, the National Nuclear Security Administration. And I will say flatly, I ran that place for five years and I'd have killed for that budget and that much high-level attention in the administration and I just - nobody in government ever said 'my program has too much money' and I doubt that my successor is busy saying that. But he is very happy with his program and I think it does put us on a very firm, firm basis."