1999 CTBT Safeguards

Contact: Daryl KimballExecutive Director, (202) 463-7280 x107


The safeguards of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) consist of measures in line with the treaty that the United States could unilaterally take to offset any of the perceived disadvantages and risks of signing the treaty. Established in August 1995, these safeguards were debated in the context of the ratification vote in the U.S. Senate in 1999.

Safeguards were first proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the debate over the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty in order to garner support from treaty skeptics.

See the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at a Glance for more information about the treaty itself. 

According to the September 22, 1997, White House letter of transmittal, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is conditioned on:

A. The conduct of a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program to ensure a high level of confidence in the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons in the active stockpile, including the conduct of a broad range of effective and continuing experimental programs.

B. The maintenance of modern nuclear laboratory facilities and programs in theoretical and exploratory nuclear technology which will attract, retain, and ensure the continued application of our human scientific resources to those programs on which continued progress in nuclear technology depends.

C. The maintenance of the basic capability to resume nuclear test activities prohibited by the CTBT should the United States cease to be bound to adhere to this treaty.

D. Continuation of a comprehensive research and development program to improve our treaty monitoring capabilities and operations.

E. The continuing development of a broad range of intelligence gathering and analytical capabilities and operations to ensure accurate and comprehensive information on worldwide nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons development programs, and related nuclear programs.

F. The understanding that if the president is informed by the secretaries of Defense and Energy—advised by the Nuclear Weapons Council, the directors of the DOE’s nuclear weapons laboratories, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command—that a high level of confidence in the safety or reliability of a nuclear weapon type which the two secretaries consider to be critical to our nuclear deterrent could no longer be certified, the president, in consultation with Congress, would be prepared to withdraw from the CTBT under the standard “supreme national interest” clause in order to conduct whatever testing might be required.