Senate Floor Speeches by Sen. Byron Dorgan
Nuclear weapons complex modernization
Case for nuclear weapons reductions
December 22, 2010
Mr. President, there has been a great deal of discussion about modernization this morning. I have listened to much of it and was not going to come to the floor, but I do want the record to show clearly what the numbers are on modernization. It is important to the future for us to understand what has been done and what is being done and what will be done.
I chair the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds nuclear weapons activities. I have spoken about this previously. It is very important going forward that we all understand what not only this administration but the previous administration has proposed with respect to modernization. I agree with my colleague from Kentucky. It is encouraging, at the end of this debate, that two bipartisan amendments represent the conclusion of this very important debate. We often debate things that are of lesser importance or of greater importance and sometimes don’t always see the difference between the two. But this is one of those cases where if we ratify the START agreement today, when all is said and done, more will have been done than said. That is very unusual in a political body.
When I say “more will have been done than said,” it is so unbelievably important to try to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But there is a subtext to all the other things we have discussed, which is why I want to put in the record the funding for the nuclear weapons issues. That subtext is money, money related to national security. We are a country with a $13 trillion debt. Modernization is expensive. Yet it relates to our national security. National missile defense, which we have heard a lot about, is very expensive. I understand that also relates to national security. But this issue of getting our debt under control and our fiscal policy under control is just as much a part of the national security interests of this country.
The subtext to these discussions–modernization, missile defense–is about funding as well and getting this country’s economic house in order.
Let me mention the issue of nuclear weapons modernization. In fiscal year 2010, we were spending $6.3 billion on the modernization program on nuclear weapons activities. In fiscal year 2011, it went to $7 billion, up 10 percent–so a 10-percent increase for the nuclear weapons activities in President Obama’s budget request. That 10-percent increase was unusual because most accounts were flat or some had cuts. But nuclear weapons got a 10-percent increase. The proposal for 2011, a $600 million increase but $7 billion total, was actually short-circuited and put in the continuing resolution. All the other funding in the CR is flat funding from the previous year. But the funding for the nuclear weapons programs at 10 percent higher was put into the CR. Those programs and those programs alone get the higher funding.
That $7 billion was not all that was to be spent. Another $4 billion emerged. I heard about that on the radio while driving in North Dakota, that another $4 billion had been put into this pot for modernization. The additional funding from the 1251 report, which was produced in the fall, means 2012 funding would go from $6.3 billion in 2010, $7 billion in 2011, to $7.6 billion in 2012. That is a $1.2 billion increase in 2 years.
Linton Brooks, the fellow who ran the National Nuclear Security Administration and who did a good job in that role, said:
I would’ve killed for this kind of budget.
He is referring to $1.12 billion increase and two 10 percent increases, while much of the other budget was flat. We are talking about $85 billion for the next decade on these weapons activities, an increase of $8.5 billion in the next 5 years over what was portrayed in the 2010 budget. We are talking about a lot of additional money that has been committed. It shows a commitment to build two nuclear facilities that were discussed earlier.
I want to mention them because it is important to understand what we are doing, the uranium processing facility at the Y-12 production complex and the chemistry and metallurgy research replacement facility at Los Alamos. There were moneys in the 2012 budget in construction funds for these two facilities, not as much as some would want in the Senate. But the fact is, the design of these two facilities is only 45 percent complete. We don’t fund things that are 45 percent designed. To come out here and say we ought to be providing robust funding for buildings that are not even designed just makes no sense. Why, NNSA can’t have confidence in its funding needs until it reaches about a 90-percent design point and that will be in 2013.
I listened this morning to this discussion and I think what the chairman has done and what Senator Kyl has done in reaching an agreement is fine. But I want the record to show that this administration has proposed robust increases in 2010, 2011, 2012, and for a 5-year period in these modernization accounts, life extension programs–robust increases. Even that is not enough for some. They want to put money into buildings that are not yet designed. That doesn’t make much sense to me.
My point is, when we add up all of this, the subtext is how are we going to pay for it. Because it is easy to talk about authorizing, to talk about appropriating. The question is, Where does the money come from at a time when we are borrowing 40 cents of everything we spend in this government?
The subtext of money and debt is also a significant part of this country’s national security. If we don’t get our fiscal house in order, all these debates will pale by comparison. We can’t lose our economy and have a future collapse of the economy because the rest of the world has very little confidence in our ability to make smart decisions. We can’t risk all that and believe we are going to be a world economic power moving forward. If we are going to remain a world economic power–and we can, and I believe we will–it will be because we start making some smart, tough, courageous decisions. That is more than just calling for more money, more spending, which was most of this morning’s discussion.
I don’t object to the amendment. My colleagues have raised important issues. But it is important to understand we have made great progress on the modernization funding programs in the past months, and this administration has moved very aggressively to meet those needs and meet those concerns. That is important with respect to the public record.
Mr. DORGAN. Madam President, I was not going to speak again, but I was prompted to by my colleague from Alabama [Sen. Jeff Sessions], a friend and someone for whom I have great respect. The presentation by my colleague from Alabama suggested that President Obama is moving in the direction of disarming us, the implication is that of injuring our national security by proposing that we have fewer nuclear weapons. Let me make a point that I think is so important for the record.
I hope it is not now or ever considered a source of weakness for this country to aspire to have a planet with fewer nuclear weapons. It ought to be a source of strength that we understand it becomes our burden as a world leader–an economic leader and nuclear power–to try to reduce the number of nuclear weapons on this Earth.
This President has not proposed anything that would injure our national security. He is not proposing anything that is unilateral. He has negotiated and his team has negotiated a very strong arms reduction treaty with the Russians.
I know there has been great discussion about modernization, whether there is enough money, about why tactical nuclear weapons were not included, the issue of whether it limits us with respect to missile defense. All of those issues have been answered. All have been responded to.
The question, it seems to me, for us now and for all Americans, and particularly those who serve in Congress in the future, is will we be a world leader in pushing for a reduction in the number of nuclear weapons on this planet?
There are some 25,000 nuclear weapons on this planet. The loss of just one of those weapons, into the hands of a terrorist or rogue nation who might then explode it in a major city on Earth would change everything.
My colleagues are probably tired of hearing me say it, but in my desk I have kept a piece of a Soviet Union bomber, a very small piece of a wing strut from a Soviet Union bomber. We did not shoot it down. We negotiated that bomber down by paying money to saw the wings off.
Nuclear arms reduction treaties work. We know they work. There are Russian submarines that were not destroyed in battle. We ground them up and took them apart. The wings were sawed off bombers, and they were sold for scrap. Nuclear missiles in silos with nuclear warheads aimed at American cities are gone.
I will give an example. One was in Ukraine. Now sunflower seeds adorn that pasture where there was a missile with a nuclear weapon aimed at America.
We know these arms reduction treaties work because we have seen them work. Fewer nuclear weapons, fewer delivery vehicles, bombers, submarines, missiles–we know this works.
My colleague seemed to suggest that it would be a horrible thing if the entire world were rid of nuclear weapons. I hope that every Senator would aspire to have that be the case, a world in which there was not one weapon left, for almost surely every offensive weapon on this planet has always been used. We need to be very concerned about the number of nuclear weapons, the spread of nuclear weapons, the need, the desire for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons. That is why these treaties and these negotiations on arms reduction are so unbelievably important.
Never has it been more important because now there is a new threat. They do not wear uniforms. They do not belong to one country. It is the terrorist threat. And they strive mightily to acquire nuclear weapons.
This treaty negotiated at the start by the previous President and concluded by this President, in my judgment, strengthens this country, represents our best national security interests.
I ask the question of anyone who believes that it is a threat for us to begin reducing nuclear weapons through arms negotiations with others who have nuclear weapons: Who, if not us, will lead the way to do that? If not us, who? Is there another country they think will aspire to provide leadership to reduce the number of nuclear weapons? If there is, tell us the name because we all know better than that.
This responsibility falls on our shoulders. We are the leading nuclear power on this Earth. It is our responsibility, it is this country’s responsibility to lead. I don’t ever want anybody to suggest it is some sort of weakness for this President or any President to engage in arms reduction negotiations. That is a source of strength.
This treaty was negotiated carefully. I was on the national security working group. We had briefing after briefing in top-secret venues. This treaty was carefully negotiated. It represents our best interests. It represents a reduction of nuclear weapons, a reduction of delivery vehicles and represents, in my judgment, another step in reducing the nuclear threat. It is not even a giant step, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.
This represents our best national security interests, and this President has demonstrated, yes, he wants a world with fewer nuclear weapons. He wants a world, as would I, with no nuclear weapons at some point. But this President would never allow negotiations or never allow circumstances in which this country is unarmed or unprepared or unable to meet its national security needs. He has not done that, not in this treaty, and will not do it in the future.
I did want to stand up and say that because of the comments earlier by the Senator who suggested there is some sort of weakness for a country that aspires to have a reduction of nuclear weapons on this planet.
Let me finally say, I have spoken at length on this floor about the severity of losing even just one nuclear weapon. I have told the story about a CIA agent code-named Dragonfire who reported 1 month after 9/11 that a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon had been stolen from Russia and that nuclear weapon had been smuggled into New York City and was to be detonated. There was an apoplectic seizure in this town about it because no one knew what to do about it. They did not even notify the mayor of New York.
They discovered a month later that was probably not a credible piece of information. But as they did the diagnosis of it, they discovered it is plausible someone could have acquired a 10-kiloton nuclear weapon from Russia, it was plausible; if they had done that, they could have smuggled it into an American city and if terrorists did that they could have detonated it. Then we are not talking about 3,000 deaths, we are talking about 100,000, 200,000 deaths.
The work we have done in so many areas, the work in this administration, let me say, to secure loose nuclear materials, circumstances where plutonium or highly enriched uranium in the size of a liter or, in one case, in the size of a small can of soda, enough to kill tens and tens of thousands of people with a nuclear weapon–this is serious business. At a time when we debate a lot of issues–serious and not so serious–this is serious business.
I think the work that has been done by the chairman and ranking member in recent days–I watched a lot of this and watched it over this year–is extraordinary work. But so too is the work by this President, by the negotiators. My colleague described the folks at the State Department who had a significant role as well.
Let us not ever think it is a source of weakness to be negotiating verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons among those who possess them. That is a source of strength, and it is important for our kids and grandchildren who can succeed by continuing to do that with treaties that make the best sense for this country’s national security interests.