Regular readers of NoH know that I’ve been on a mini-crusade of sorts to push back against the argument that the launcher and deployed delivery vehicle limits in New START are based on a misguided ideological predilection for arms reduction rather than sound military and strategic analysis.
One of the arguments made by critics such as Keith Payne and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) is that New START requires a lower limit on deployed U.S. delivery vehicles than was suggested last summer by some Department of Defense officials. Specifically, Payne and Thune pointed to testimony from Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright in July 2009 that he would be “very concerned” if the number of strategic delivery vehicles dropped below 800 (note that the limit in New START is 700).
Thanks to the treasure trove of additional documents contained in the recently released Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on the New START treaty, we now know that in early September Gen. Cartwright clarified his position in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In sum, Gen. Cartwright concludes that “the treaty limitation of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles imposed by New START provides a sound framework for maintaining stability and allows us to maintain a strong and credible deterrent that ensures our national security while moving to lower levels of strategic nuclear forces.” Had he known the outcome of the New START negotiations at the time of his July 2009 statement, he would have sang a different tune.
P.S. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s report on New START is an incredibly valuable and exhaustive document that should be required reading for both experts and novices alike, despite a stupefying minority view from Senators Barrasso, Wicker, Inhofe, Risch, and DeMint.
P.P.S.: Another noteworthy nugget from the report is a letter from Vice Presdient Biden to the Committee dated September 15 (the day before the Committee voted on the treaty) promising to update the administration’s 1251 report, which already provides for $80 billion dollars over ten years to sustain our weapons and their supporting infrastructure. Writes Biden:
Out-year budgets are, by definition, projections built on assumptions. NNSA has used the time since the Spring to – when the NPR and New START were concluded – to work on updating initial assumptions. We now have a more complete understanding of stockpile requirments, including the life extension program needs. Similarly, the designs of key facilities such as the Uranium Processing Facility and the Chemical and Mettalurgy Research Replacement Facility have progressed. Based on information learned since the submission of the President’s FY2011 budget and the report under Section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010, we expect that funding requirements will increase in future budget years.
Later this fall, the administration will provide the Congress with information that updates the Section 1251 report. At that time, and in our future budgets, we will address any deficiencies in the Future Years Nuclear Security Program. We are also prepared to brief the oversight committies and interested Senators as these programs progress, so that Congress can have full visibility into the program and confidence into our processes.
In other words, even more money looks to be on the way; waaaaay more than enough money. Stay tuned. Clearly the administration’s commitment to maintaining our nuclear weapons isn’t in doubt. Unfortunately the same can’t yet be said of the GOP’s commitment to New START.