Administration Gearing Up for CTBT Push

Daryl G. Kimball

The Obama administration is preparing to kick off a public education campaign to generate support in the Senate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said May 10.

Speaking at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting in Washington, Tauscher said the focus of the campaign, which will be aimed at the public as well as senators, “is to get the facts out.”

The United States has no need to conduct nuclear tests, in part because the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship Program “go[es] a step beyond explosive testing by enabling the [U.S. national laboratories] to anticipate problems in advance and reduce their potential impact on our arsenal, something that nuclear testing could not do,” she said. The CTBT’s entry into force “will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests,” she said. Also, she argued, the United States has increased its ability “to catch those who cheat.”

When the CTBT last came up for a vote, in 1999, it drew the support of 48 senators, well short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval of a treaty. The debate leading up to that vote was “too short and too politicized,” Tauscher said. Vowing not to “repeat [the] mistakes” of 1999, Tauscher said, “[W]e will make a more forceful case when we are certain the facts have been carefully examined and reviewed in a thoughtful process.”

Tauscher said she “cannot predict” when the vote will take place. Two senators who spoke at the May 10 meeting and are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), said they did not expect it before the 2012 presidential elections. Casey said it “obviously [would] be preferable” to act before then, but said, “I don’t have a high degree of confidence that we will.”