Biden Makes the Case for CTBT; Reaffirms the Reliability of Nuclear Stockpile

Today, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a major policy speech in Washington on the Obama administration's strategy for stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In his remarks, Biden said that the questions raised when the CTBT was last considered by the Senate a decade ago have been successfully addressed, and he reiterated the administration's commitment to win Senate approval for U.S. ratification of the treaty.

"The test ban treaty is as important as ever," Biden told a full audience at Fort McNair's National Defense University, including Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher, NNSA Director Tom D'agostino and former STRATCOM head General Kevin Chilton.

The Vice President emphasized the lack of technical or military reasons to resume U.S. nuclear weapons testing, and that advances in test ban monitoring make the treaty effectively verifiable. He remarked, "Today, the directors of our nuclear laboratories tell us they have a deeper understanding of our arsenal from Stockpile Stewardship than they ever had when testing was commonplace."

Biden pointed out that it is in U.S. national security interests to prevent others from conducting nuclear tests, reminding listeners that, "we led this effort to negotiate [the CTBT] in order to keep emerging nuclear states from perfecting their arsenals and to prevent our rivals from pursuing ever more advanced weapons."

He also described the Obama administration's plan to increase funding by 10% to $7 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration's stockpile management facilities and programs. "This investment is not only consistent with our nonproliferation agenda; it is essential to it...Responsible disarmament requires versatile specialists to manage it," he said.

Biden's remarks come on the heels of opinion editorials in The Wall Street Journal by Former Secretaries Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Senator Nunn, and another by the Vice President himself, emphasizing the technological advances of the Stockpile Stewardship Program and the need to invest in and support the work of the nuclear weapons labs.

Early Reactions

"The administration's robust budget proposal for stockpile management should dispel any doubts that the nuclear weapons labs do not have the resources, tools, and expertise needed to maintain a reliable arsenal into the indefinite future and can do so without resuming nuclear testing or building newly-designed nuclear warheads," said ACA executive director Daryl G. Kimball in a media advisory today.

"Given the overwhelming evidence that the United States can maintain an effective nuclear arsenal without resuming testing or building new design warheads, it is time for the administration to step up its effort to work with the Senate to reconsider and approve the treaty," he said.

"Vice President Biden's speech is further evidence of the President's stated commitment to a vision that echoes the hopes of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan for a world without nuclear weapons and to a strategy that reverses the spread of nuclear weapons and reduces the dangers posed by these weapons," remarked Leonor Tomero, director of nonproliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in another statement.

For more on the Vice President's speech, see Jonathan Weisman, "Biden to Push Test-Ban Treaty," The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2010, and the full text of the remarks.