"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
Kerrey Amendment on Nuclear Reductions Defeated

On May 26, the Senate defeated an amendment to the fiscal year (FY) 2000 defense authorization bill that would have removed the provision, in effect since 1998, barring U.S. nuclear arms reductions below START I levels until START II enters into force. Nevertheless, the Senate's version of the defense bill (S. 1059), which was approved on May 27, allows the U.S. Navy to remove the four oldest Trident ballistic missile submarines from service—a move that could save about $5 billion to $6 billion through FY 2005. However, the House version (H.R. 1401), which had not been voted on as of the end of May, mandates that those four boats fulfill their nuclear roles unless certain conditions have been met. The status of the Trident force will have to be resolved in a House-Senate conference.

Under S. 1059, the United States cannot retire or dismantle any of the following strategic nuclear delivery systems until START II enters into force: 76 B-52H bombers, 14 Trident submarines, 500 Minuteman III ICBMs and 50 MX ICBMs. (The House version specifies 18 Trident submarines.) Concerned that this provision forces the Russians to sustain a larger nuclear arsenal than they can control, Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) offered an amendment to delete it from the bill—a measure that failed by a 56-44 vote. Those in favor of keeping the restriction, such as Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), argued that it is needed in order to maintain pressure on the Duma to ratify START II.

Although welcoming the Senate's decision to reduce the number of Trident submarines, the Clinton administration said on May 24 that it wants the provision mandating START I levels to be repealed because it "unnecessarily restrict[s] the president's national security authority and ability to structure the most capable, cost effective force possible."