REP. ROGERS: Mr. Secretary, your predecessor, Secretary Panetta, stated in here that he believed that the treaty route with confirmation by the Senate was the only appropriate way to undertake nuclear reductions with another state. Do you concur with that observation and that position?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, generally, that has been the route that we’ve taken — I mean, it’s been Soviet Union, Russia — and for the reasons treaties are important, I’ve always supported.
REP. ROGERS: Well, there was an attempt under the Bush administration to try to, outside the parameters of a treaty — as you know; you were in the Senate at the time —
SEC. HAGEL: Yes, yes.
REP. ROGERS: It was criticized soundly then for trying to get around the Senate and that it would not be verifiable. So I hope that you still feel as you did when you were a senator that the Senate should have to ratify any nuclear arms reduction agreements.
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think all those treaties are important. That route, that process, if for no other reason than what you just noted. It brings the American people into it; it brings the Congress, that represents the American people into that process.
Now, there may well be — as we get into complicated pieces here down the road — some variables to, well, can we do something better this way than a treaty? I don’t know. But you look at all the options. You look at all the ways to accomplish the purpose and the end mean, but overall, I have not changed my opinion, as I sit here, from where I was in the Senate.
REP. ROGERS: Thank you.
General Dempsey, do you believe such an agreement would be verifiable outside the parameters of a treaty, if confirmed by the Senate?
GEN. DEMPSEY: That’s, obviously, a policy decision. What I have said as the military adviser is that any further reduction should be done as part of a negotiation and not unilaterally.
REP. ROGERS: All right. Thank you both and all of you for your service, again.
The above exchange occurred at the House Armed Services Committee’s April 11 hearing on the FY 2014 Department of Defense budget request. Note how Secretary of Defense Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey refuse to rule out possible further nuclear weapons reductions with Russia outside the framework of a legally-binding treaty.
For an excellent overview of the options available to the President for reducing nuclear arms, see this report from the Congressional Research Service’s Amy Woolf. Here’s an excerpt
Each of the mechanisms for reducing nuclear forces can possess different characteristics for the arms control process. These include balance and equality, predictability, flexibility, transparency and confidence in compliance, and timeliness. Provisions in formal treaties can mandate balance and equality between the two sides’ forces. They can also provide both sides with the ability to predict the size and structure of the other’s current and future forces. Unilateral measures allow each side to maintain flexibility in deciding the size and structure of its nuclear forces. In addition, the monitoring and verification provisions included in bilateral treaties can provide each side with detailed information about the numbers and capabilities of the other’s nuclear forces, while also helping each side confirm that the other has complied with the limits and restrictions in the treaty. With unilateral reductions, the two sides could still agree to share information, or they could withhold information so that they would not have to share sensitive data about their forces.