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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

Arms Reduction Treaty Would Make U.S. Safer, Officials Say

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2010 – The leaders of U.S. Strategic Command and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency told a Senate committee today that they were closely involved in developing the new Strategic Arms Control and National Security Treaty, and that they believe it will make the United States and its allies safer.

“I was fully consulted in the negotiation process, and I fully support [the treaty],” Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, Stratcom commander, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on the new START treaty.

Three ways the treaty will make the United States safer if it’s ratified, Chilton said, is by limiting the number of Russian warheads and vehicles that can target the United States, allowing sufficient flexibility for the United States to retain and use its arsenal, and re-establishing verification and transparency of weapons that ended when the previous treaty expired in April 2009.

“What we want is transparency and insight to know that either side is complying with the treaty,” Chilton said. “I would worry about any ability for Russia to make strategically significant changes [to its arsenal] that we don’t detect and couldn’t respond to.”

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in Prague on April 8. Since then, Defense Department leaders have spoken out in support of it on Capitol Hill where some lawmakers have voiced concern that it will weaken U.S. defenses or allow Russia an arms advantage.

Chilton, along with James N. Miller Jr., principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, and Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, tried to allay those concerns in today’s testimony.

“This treaty does not constrain any current [U.S.] missile defense plans,” Chilton said. “America’s nuclear arsenal remains a vital pillar of U.S. national security.”

Asked whether the treaty undermines security by not allowing the United States to convert offensive missile launchers to defensive launchers, O’Reilly said he “wouldn’t do that anyway,” because it is not prudent or operationally effective.

“I do not see any limitation on my ability to develop missile defenses,” O’Reilly said. “The options that are prohibited are not ones I would choose or any other director would choose, because it would make us less effective. I see no limitations to us for the plans we are pursuing.”

The treaty’s limits of 1,550 warheads will allow the United States to sustain effective nuclear deterrence, including a second strike capability. Its limit of 700 deployed intercontinental and submarine-launch ballistic missiles and heavy bombers will allow the United States to retain a robust triad.

Also, by providing the freedom to mix strategic forces, the treaty allows for the rebalancing of weapons over time.

“The United States can and will continue to expand and improve missile defenses,” Miller said. The department is studying the appropriate mix of long-range strike capabilities and will include its conclusions in the fiscal 2012 budget request, he said. Any deployment of ballistic missiles should be limited to niche capabilities, he added.

“The new START treaty does not in any way constrain the U.S. from deploying the most effective nuclear defenses possible,” Miller said. “It allows for the defense of the nation, as well as our forces and allies abroad.”

Chilton said the U.S. nuclear arsenal today “is safe, secure and effective,” but also is in need of maintenance. The Defense Department plans to invest $100 billion over the next decade to sustain and modernize its strategic nuclear delivery systems, while the Energy Department plans to invest $80 billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear stockpile and weapons complex, he said.

“These investments are not only important, they are essential in my view,” Chilton said.

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