As floor action on New START enters its sixth day, Majority Leader Reid just announced that the Senate today will consider two amendments: The Thune amendment on warhead limits (#4841) and the Inhofe amendment on verification (#4833). Below are some responses to each amendment:
Thune Amendment 4841 WARHEAD LIMITS seeks to increase the limits on the number of deployed strategic delivery vehicles (ICBMs, SLBMs, and Heavy Bombers) from 700 to 720.
- The U.S. military believes that the central limit of 700 deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles is enough to sustain a robust and flexible nuclear triad without altering current or planned basing arrangements. As Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright has stated: “I believe 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.” The U.S. agreed to this limit after careful analysis among relevant branches of the U.S. military, including U.S. Strategic Command.
- Altering the central limits of the treaty via amendment would kill the treaty because Russia would surely reject the change, forcing the treaty to be renegotiated.
- Under New START the U.S. will maintain the following force structure of deployed strategic nuclear delivery vehicles: up to 240 SLBMs on distributed among 14 SSBNs; up to 420 ICBMs; and up to 60 nuclear-capable bombers. The planned force of 720 deployed delivery vehicles will eventually need to be reduced to 700, which the U.S. could do by moving 20 delivery vehicles to non-deployed status (as allowed by New START’s limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic nuclear launchers). The treaty limits must be met seven years are entry into force, so the U.S. military has until that time to make any final decisions on how it plans to meet the treaty limits.
- The Obama administration has announced a plan to spend $100 billion over the next ten years to sustain and modernize all three legs of the triad.
Inhofe Amendment 4833 VERIFICATION to increase the number of Type One inspections from 10 to 30 as well as increasing the number of Type Two inspections from 8 to 24.
- The U.S. military and intelligence community believes that the number of allowed inspections is sufficient to verify Russia’s compliance with the New START limits. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen testified that, “in totality, I’m very comfortable with the verification regime that exists in the treaty right now.”Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has echoed similar sentiments: “I think the earlier, the sooner, the better [for New START]. You know, my thing is: From an intelligence perspective only, are we better off with it or without it? We’re better off with it.”
- Altering the number of inspections in the treaty via amendment would kill the treaty because Russia would surely reject the change, forcing the treaty to be renegotiated. Without the treaty there would be zero on-site inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
- New START allows for up to 18 annual on-site inspections per year, including direct monitoring of Russia’s deployed nuclear warheads. While this is a smaller number of inspections than the 28 inspections allowed under START I, New START’s ten “Type One” inspections at bases for deployed missiles and bombers can verify data that required two inspections under START I. Coupled with the eight “Type Two” inspections of non-deployed systems, the 18 New START inspections are actually equivalent to 28 inspections under START I. What’s more, New START’s inspections only have to cover 35 Russian sites, whereas START I covered 70 sites in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. In sum, as Admiral Mullen notes, under New START “there are almost twice as many inspections per facility, per year than under the previous treaty.”
- Concerns that the New START verification regime is weaker than START I’s verification regime are unfounded. While New START draws upon much of what was in START I, the new treaty contains new limits and rules which reflect the fact that the U.S.-Russia nuclear relationship is different than it was when START I was negotiated at the close of the Cold War. New rules and limits in turn require verification provisions that are actually pegged to those new rules and limits. In the view of Admiral Mullen, the “verification regime that exists in [the New START Treaty] is in ways, better than the one that has existed in the past.” He also stated he is “convinced that the verification regime is as stringent as it is transparent…and born of more than 15 years of lessons learned under the original START Treaty.”