Legislation Would Ensure White House Honors Promise of a Sustainable Nuclear Deterrent; Require Congress to be Involved in Arms Control Reductions below New START Levels
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Congressman Mike Turner successfully included major parts of his recently introduced “New START Treaty Implementation Act” into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this Wednesday. Last Thursday, Turner introduced “The New START Treaty Implementation Act” as a standalone bill in the House of Representatives. Wednesday morning, Senator Jon Kyl introduced “nearly identical” legislation in the Senate. As part of the NDAA, Turner’s provisions will codify the White House’s own promised “To-Do List” from last year’s START Treaty debate. The NDAA is up for a vote before the full House in two weeks.

“I’m proud to have the support of Armed Services Chairman McKeon and Senator Jon Kyl for these provisions of The New START Treaty Implementation Act. These leaders in Congress realize the importance of our nuclear deterrent to both our own national security and that of our allies. At a time of increasing uncertainty surrounding the intentions of nations developing nuclear weapons, we must continue to maintain and modernize our stockpile,” said Turner, who is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

“During last year’s the New START debate, a bipartisan consensus formed around the need for modernizing our nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and infrastructure. The President has promised a robust ten-year modernization program, but the project to create a sustainable deterrent will transcend several administrations. We need to act now, to codify the promised ‘To-Do-List’ for modernizing our nuclear forces,” added Turner.

“Looking beyond the New START Treaty, we also need to be careful about additional arms control and deeper cuts before certain modernization milestones are met. This legislation would require that Congress be consulted before deeper cuts are made to either our deployed or non-deployed nuclear stockpile, or before international agreements limit U.S. missile defense capabilities. We have cut our stockpile dramatically since the Cold War, but we now need to slow down, to pause, and make sure that with respect to both weapons and the triad, that we have a sustainable deterrent,” noted Turner.

Highlights of Turner’s New START Treaty Implementation Act now included in the House NDAA:

  • Modernizing our nuclear weapons and related infrastructure, as the President has pledged to do in a November 2010 report on nuclear modernization plans, and other statements.
    • Limits funds for reductions of deployed weapons required by New START Treaty pending a joint certification by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy that the modernization plan is indeed proceeding. 
      • In the event modernization is not proceeding, it requires a six month freeze on funds. Treaty implementation is thus linked to progress in nuclear weapons modernization, but the provision is carefully crafted to avoid treaty default. 
    • Prohibits further unilateral reductions of deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons below New START Treaty levels:
      • Prohibits the executive branch from making unilateral reductions to the non-deployed hedge stockpile until the full functionality (in the 2024 time frame) of the new plutonium and uranium facilities (CMRR-NF, UPF)—dates and criteria previously laid out in the administration’s own May 2010 report on the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan and in more recent testimony.
      • Amends the U.S. Code to prevent the executive branch from unilaterally reducing U.S. deployed or non-deployed nuclear weapons, except as otherwise and specifically provided by law—by a future treaty or Act of Congress.
  • Expresses concern about the administration’s stated plans to modify U.S. deterrence requirements and nuclear strategy merely for the purpose of justifying further arms control reductions. 
    • Requires the President to notify Congress before implementing any changes to nuclear strategy, to certify that the U.S. will not adopt a counter-value targeting strategy and that the triad will be preserved (consistent with section 1058 of the House-passed FY11 NDAA), and to wait 90 days after the congressional notification.
  • Preserving U.S. freedom of action with respect to missile defense by amending the U.S. Code to prohibit any international agreements limiting U.S. missile defense capabilities except with specific authorization—by a new treaty or Act of Congress. 
  • Sustaining our extended deterrent for NATO by counseling against unilateral reduction, consolidation, withdrawal of our non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe, without either host nation request or NATO High Level Group request and certain other conditions.
  • Codification of the “1251 Report” from the FY2010 NDAA on modernization of the nuclear stockpile, delivery systems, infrastructure.