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Senators Urge Obama to Include Cost Estimates With START Replacement

(Aug. 4) -U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was one of several lawmakers who urged President Barack Obama last month to offer lawmakers cost estimates for bolstering the nation's nuclear arsenal alongside a future arms control treaty (Chris Kleponis/Getty Images). (Aug. 4) -U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was one of several lawmakers who urged President Barack Obama last month to offer lawmakers cost estimates for bolstering the nation's nuclear arsenal alongside a future arms control treaty (Chris Kleponis/Getty Images).

When U.S. President Barack Obama asks lawmakers to approve a new arms control agreement with Russia, he should provide a 10-year financing assessment for bolstering the nation's nuclear arsenal, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators wrote in a letter to the president last month (see GSN, July 27).

The plan should come with estimates on how much could be spent to update the U.S. nuclear complex and to ensure that personnel are ready to develop new weapons that might be needed in the future, the lawmakers said. They are also looking for proof of the administration's readiness to maintain aging ICBMs, submarines and bombers that carry the arsenal of nuclear warheads, the Washington Post reported.

Diplomats from Moscow and Washington have been negotiating a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is scheduled to expire on Dec. 5. Congress must approve a new agreement for the deal to enter effect.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month signed a "joint understanding" to reduce their deployed nuclear arsenals to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads and 500 to 1,000 delivery vehicles.

The letter -- signed by senators including John Kerry (D-Mass.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- responded to amendments attached to fiscal 2010 defense authorization bills passed by the Senate and House of Representatives. One amendment inserted in the House legislation would require Obama to certify that U.S. nuclear-weapon efforts are receiving sufficient funding, and that a new arms control treaty includes adequate mechanisms for verifying arms reductions and no limits on U.S. deployment of missile defenses or conventional offensive weaponry.

A Senate amendment, on the other hand, would require Obama only to give lawmakers the information described in the letter.

"I would encourage the administration to see that requirement not as a burden, but as an opportunity," Kerry said on the Senate floor Wednesday. However, he knocked the wording in the House version of the defense bill, saying it was "trying to bar U.S. compliance with a treaty before the treaty has even been negotiated" (Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Aug. 4).

NTI Analysis

  • Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview

    Sept. 27, 2013

    A fact sheet on current and projected costs of maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent, produced by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.