VIEWS FROM THE PENTAGON
On June 16, three high-ranking DoD officials – James N. Miller, Jr., Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Department of Defense, General Kevin P. Chilton, USAF, Commander, US Strategic Command, and Lieutenant General Patrick J. O’Reilly, Director, Missile Defense Agency – testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the New START treaty. The hearing marked the eighth hearing on the treaty.
The witnesses’ introductory remarks were informative and reassuring from a military standpoint. Most notably, they took sufficient time to address Article V, Section 3 of the Treaty (which prohibits conversion of silos for ICBMs and for SLBMs for the placement of missile defense interceptors), testifying that it does not constitute a current or future limit on missile current U.S. missile defense plans. They specifically stated that the conversion of silos is an antiquated practice, costly and inefficient, and were it to be performed it would degrade U.S. national security, as it would require trading a Trident D5 SLBM for a single missile defense interceptor. Finally, General O’Reilly noted that New START is comparatively less constraining on missile defense than the original START I treaty.
Citing the dueling unilateral statements issued by the U.S. and Russia on missile defense, Senator Risch (R-ID) challenged the witnesses as to whether the U.S. and Russia have deep differences on how to interpret the treaty when it comes to missile defense. Gen. O’Reilly responded by noting that the treaty does not in any way limit current and planned U.S. missile defense activities and that he has briefed the Russians in detail about our plans. Undersecretary Miller stated that while some on the Russian side would like to use the treaty ratification process to constrain U.S. missile defense programs, the two sides don’t have a different interpretation of the treaty text and the U.S. has made it absolutely clear that it will continue to expand and improve its existing missile defense programs.
Senator Shaheen finished things up with a clarifying question regarding Sen. Risch’s concerns: “Do you believe that the Russian unilateral statement is a concern from a military perspective?” General Chilton responded: “No ma’am.”
On June 15, Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation and Chief U.S. Negotiator of the New START Treaty and Edward L. Warner, III, Secretary of Defense Representative to the New START Negotiations testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the New START Treaty. This was the seventh hearing on New START before the Committee.
Both witnesses provided strong, informative, and technically detailed testimonies in favor of the treaty. Much of the hearing focused on questions raised largely by Senator DeMint (R- SC) about missile defense, the only Senator apart from acting Chairman Sen. Kaufman and Sen. Lugar to appear at the hearing. Despite initial remarks by Gottemoeller and Warner, as well as Senator Kauffman, that missile defense capabilities are not limited by the treaty, that a comprehensive missile defense system able to render Russian ICBMs obsolete is “costly and impractical,” and that rather, the U.S. will deploy “the most effective system” as determined by defense needs, Senator DeMint nevertheless dove into a series of questions about U.S. intentions regarding missile defense and the United States’ reliance on Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Warner provided the strongest response to DeMint’s claims. He pointed out that not developing a comprehensive missile defense system that shoots down Russian missiles (the apparent goal of Senator DeMint) is not embodied in START, for in fact START does not touch on missile defense at all. DeMint then expressed his concerns about MAD, noting that he believes the American people are not happy with its implications (i.e., nuclear destruction). To this, Warner differentiated between the choice and the necessity of MAD- noting that all administrations since George H.W. Bush have acknowledged that a comprehensive missile defense system able to shoot down multiple warheads from long range ballistic missiles is simply not an achievable goal- and that consequently we revert to MAD out of necessity. Following Senator DeMint’s exit from the hearing, Senator Lugar commented: “I don’t know any serious thinker who has envisioned a comprehensive missile defense program,” which both Gottemoeller and Warner confirmed as correct.
Other important take-aways from the hearing include:
•Gottemoeller’s insistence that the treaty is the product of an interagency effort, and consequently the negotiators have full confidence that it accounts for all of the views of the U.S. government (confirmed in today’s hearing by the witnesses);
•Warner’s emphasis that the new treaty has the full support of the U.S. defense leadership, who believe that it strengthens our security while protecting our flexibility (again, confirmed today);
•Gottemoeller’s belief that the Russian unilateral statement should actually be interpreted as a good sign, for while it indicates that Moscow does not like our current position on missile defense, more importantly it shows that they did not succeed in including their objections in the text of the treaty;
•Gottemoeller’s response to a question from Senator Lugar as to why the use of telemetric data has changed from the previous START treaty, in which she noted that the new verification regime no longer requires the exchange of telemetric data, but that it will still be exchanged on a limited basis (for up to five missile tests per year).