ACA Experts Call for Senate Approval of New START This Fall

For Immediate Release: August 3, 2010

Press contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director (202) 463-8270 x107; or Tom Z. Collina, research director (202) 463-8270 x104

(Washington, DC)  The Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced today that it plans to hold a vote on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on September 15 or 16, which would open the way for a vote by the full Senate this fall.

Signed on April 8, New START would modestly reduce the still enormous number of deployed U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads-from more than 2,000 to 1,550 or less each-and reestablish a robust system of on-site inspections and data exchanges.

"From a national security standpoint, there is every reason for New START to enter into force as quickly as possible. It is important that we close the 'verification gap' created by the expiration of START I and set new lower limits on Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal. Without ratification of New START, each side will rapidly lose insight into each other's strategic nuclear forces and will engage in more costly force modernization and hedging strategies," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a non-partisan research and policy organization.

"There have been nearly 20 hearings and strong, bipartisan testimony in support of New START addressing all of the substantive issues about the treaty. Major national security leaders from both Republican and Democratic administrations support prompt ratification of New START. New START deserves and will eventually win the approval of the Senate by a wide margin," Kimball said.

Despite the administration's 10-year, $80 billion plan to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and extend the lives of existing warheads, some Republican Senators including Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Robert Corker (R-Tenn.) reportedly want further assurances that the program can be sustained--and want additional billions of program dollars for their home states--before they will allow a vote for New START. Last month, House and Senate energy appropriations subcommittees approved the administration's $7 billion fiscal year 2011 request for nuclear weapons complex activities, which is a 10% increase above the previous year.

"It is irresponsible and unnecessary for a few Senators to hold New START and U.S. national security hostage for billions more dollars for weapons laboratories when, in reality, the administration's plan and budget for modernizing the weapons complex and maintaining the warheads without resuming nuclear explosive testing is more than enough to get the job done," Kimball said.

"If over the course of the next several years there are additional program costs or savings, future Presidents and Congresses can make appropriate changes--up or down--to the budget," Kimball noted.

In addition, a few Senators still believe New START will influence U.S. decisions and plans regarding ballistic missile defense, even though Defense Secretary Robert Gates said May 18 that "[T]he treaty will not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible."

"Nevertheless, Chairman Kerry and the White House are clearly going the extra mile to address the lingering questions of some Republican Senators before a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full Senate in September. We hope the process leads to even stronger support for this very important treaty," said Kimball.