Sen. Inhofe Questions Start Treaty

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today expressed his concerns over the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on the Senate floor.  Inhofe’s statement comes after yesterday’s SASC hearing on START with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Admiral Michael Mullen, and Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu.

“My opinion on the START Treaty has not changed since President Obama signed the treaty in April,” said Inhofe.  “I remain concerned about the limits this treaty places on our nation’s ability to advance our missile defense, also it’s lack of verification procedures that are proven to be robust, accurate and effective, and most importantly, its failure to deter proliferation and future attacks on our nation and allies.”

Inhofe continued, “As the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees continues to discuss the START Treaty, it is crucial we examine the military, political, technical, and intelligence impacts associated with START to include a  comprehensive net assessment of benefits, costs, and risks along with a clear and precise listing of terms, definitions and banned or permitted actions. Without this information, it would be irresponsible for President Obama to ask the Senate to take up the new START ratification.  In its current state, I do not believe this treaty is in the best interest of the United States as it will have profound negative implications on our national security.

Inhofe’s Full Statement

On 17 Jun, the Senate Armed Services Committee held its first hearing on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or new START. During the hearing, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, Dr. Chu and Admiral Mullen all emphasized the importance of verifying the treaty. The bottom line question for all Americans and this legislative body is: does this treaty improve the national security of the United States, and the safety of Americans?

To put it bluntly, this treaty will have profound negative implications for US national security. We are being told repeatedly that it is this treaty or nothing…that is not an accurate statement. The United States and Russian are still committed under the 2002 Moscow Treaty.  This treaty mandates a reduction of the number of deployed nuclear weapons to a range between 1,700 and 2,200…a decrease from 6,000 under START I.

Additionally, in 2009, the United States and Russia had the option to extend START I for 5-years, keeping in place the detailed verification and inspection protocols under START I. It was the decision of the Obama Administration to abandon the START I protocols and rush forward with new START. Nevertheless, both countries remain bound by the Moscow Treaty.

Yes, new START further reduces United States and Russian strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads and reduces launchers such as ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers to 800 total and 700 ‘deployed’ – armed with nuclear weapons.  However, prior to new START negotiations, neither the United States or Russia were increasing their nuclear arsenals and, in fact, due to fiscal concerns, Russia was looking at decreasing their levels of strategic nuclear weapons.
So what does this treaty accomplish, or more importantly, what does it fail to accomplish?

I said this when the Treaty was signed in April and my sentiments remain the same:  I remain concerned about several critical pieces of this security treaty:  modernization, force structure, missile defense, verification and most importantly, our overall ability to deter our enemies.


The Perry-Schlesinger Commission, a Bipartisan Congressional Commission on Strategic Posture of the United States, were unanimously alarmed by the serious disrepair and neglect of our nuclear weapons stockpile and complex. Sec Gates warned last October, saying: “there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program.” General Chilton, Commander of US Strategic Command, testified that modernization was not only important but “essential.”

The last B-52 was manufactured in 1964 and last Minuteman III was manufactured in 1975. We are the only major nuclear power not modernizing its’ weapons. Our weapons are an average of 26 yrs old and most are 15 or more years beyond design life. Some weapons lack modern safety features such insensitive high-explosives and unique signal generators and others rely on vacuum tubes.

No United States nuclear weapons have been fully tested since 1992 when the United States voluntarily suspended its Underground Nuclear Testing Program in anticipation of ratifying a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Meanwhile, other nuclear countries, to include Russia, continue to modernize and replace their nuclear weapons. These “fixes to fixes” without testing reduces overall US and
Allied confidence in our weapons.

Press reports indicate the administration will invest $100 billion over the next decade in nuclear delivery systems. About $30 billion of this total will go toward development and acquisition of a new strategic submarine, leaving about $70 billion. According to estimates by U.S. Strategic Command, the cost of maintaining our current dedicated nuclear forces is approximately $5.6 billion per year or $56 billion over the decade.  This leaves roughly $14 billion of the $100 billion the administration intends to invest – even less if you factor in inflation. This $14 billion is not sufficient to develop and acquire: a next generation bomber, a follow-on ICBM, a follow-on nuclear air launched cruise missile, and develop a conventional prompt global strike capability.  

I applaud Secretary Gates and the Department of Defense for committing $5 billion of their own budget authority to the Department of Energy to make a down payment on modernization, stating that this was “the only way to get modernization.”  Unfortunately, apart from the $5 billion set aside for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) by the Department of Defense, there appears to be no attempt to grow the budget and improve the infrastructure in the near term ($7.0B, $7.0B, $7.1B for the next 3 years).  

I am also concerned that the Appropriators are not going to be able to fully fund the President’s FY11 budget request of $624 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) due to budget limitations. The question that remains unanswered is will the President veto any appropriation that does not meet his full request for the nuclear weapons complex?

Section 1251 of FY10 NDAA requires that the submission of a new START agreement to the Senate be accompanied by a plan to modernize the US nuclear deterrent. Sadly, the Section 1251 modernization report does not even make a commitment to go forward with these delivery systems, putting off decisions on a follow-on bomber and ICBM until 2013 and 2015 respectively.

A letter written to President Obama on 15 Dec 09 and signed by 41 Senators stated that further reductions are not in national security interest of the United States without a significant program to modernize our nuclear deterrent. Enhanced safety, security, and reliability of nuclear weapons stockpile, modernization of the nuclear weapons complex, and maintenance of the nuclear delivery systems are key to enabling further reductions. Therefore, ratification of new START by this Senate must be linked to a commitment to modernize the nuclear enterprise.

Force Structure

According to the Perry-Schlesinger Strategic Posture Commission, “The triad of strategic delivery systems continues to have value.  Each leg of the nuclear triad provides unique contributions to stability.  As the overall force shrinks, their unique values become more prominent.”  We need to understand what the Russian force structure will look like and do a net assessment to determine whether we can maintain a viable nuclear deterrent under this new agreement. We need to take into full consideration the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review which concluded that “large disparities in nuclear capabilities could raise concerns on both sides and among U.S. allies and partners, and may not be conducive to maintaining a stable, long-term relationship, especially as nuclear forces are significantly reduced.”

The Nuclear Force Structure suggested in the Section 1251 plan:
•    Retains up to 420 of the 450 currently deployed single warhead ICBMs
•    Retains up to 60 nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers, while converting the remaining 34 for only conventional use
•    And retains all 14 strategic nuclear submarines but reduces the number of SLBM launchers in each submarine from 24 to 20, and deploy no more than 240 multi-warhead SLBMs at any time.

This Senate needs to fully understand the military force structure of the new nuclear force at 700 deployed launchers and 1550 warheads and the impact on our Nuclear Triad prior to ratifying this treaty, not seven years down the road as the Obama Administration officials are recommending.

The United States has stated it will unilaterally reduce the nuclear payload on each Minuteman III ICBM from 3 warheads down to a single warhead. Russia has not made any corresponding statement. This Senate also need to understand the impact of this unilateral statement on our forces and national security.

The Air Force recently completed a life-extension program for the Minuteman III ICBM, replacing the guidance and propulsion systems, to extend the service life until 2020 – and perhaps until 2030. Approximately $330 million is requested in FY11 to continue modifications to the Minuteman III and conduct technology development for a possible follow-on system. This Senate needs to see the analysis in order to understand whether further ICBM reductions are feasible or desirable in order to continue to carry out deterrence missions.

Additionally, this Treaty does not address tactical nuclear weapons even though tactical nukes remain one of the most significant threats to our national security. Russia has approximately 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons, a 10:1 superiority over the US inventory. Not only do the Russians maintain a 10-1 superiority in tactical nuclear weapons but their tactical nuclear weapons will outnumber our strategic nuclear weapons by at least 2-1 and Russian is increasing their reliance on their nuclear arsenal to make up for their declining conventional military capabilities Henry Kissinger stated on 25 May, 2010 that “The large Russian stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, unmatched by a comparable American deployment, could threaten the ability to undertake extended deterrence.”  The Perry-Schlesinger Strategic Posture Commission report notes “The combination of new warhead designs, the estimated production capability for new nuclear warheads, and precision delivery systems such as the Iskander short-range tactical ballistic missile, open up new possibilities for Russian efforts to threaten to use nuclear weapons to influence regional conflicts.” And going back to March 2003, then Senator Biden stated that “After entry into force of the Moscow Treaty, getting a handle on Russian tactical nuclear weapons must be a top arms control and non-proliferation objective of the United States Government.”

I cannot overemphasize the threat of tactical nuclear weapons and I ask you, where is that effort that our current Vice President so aptly stated during his time as a Senator? I can easily see a scenario where Russian tactical nuclear weapons reach the U.S. homeland by way of nuclear cruise missiles launched from submarines deployed near US shores. Or could you imagine a scenario where one of those tactical nukes falls into the hands of a terrorist organization bent on attacking America or our allies. Unfortunately, the new START does not address the threat of nuclear terrorism and proliferation and it does not ensure all existing weapons remain secure.

Missile Defense

We need to understand the implications of this Treaty on missile defense.  I have heard many different explanations of the intent of Article V and the Treaty. The understanding of this treaty’s impact on missile defense is as clear as mud. On the one hand, the Obama Administration assures us there are no limitations on our missile defenses while on the other hand, the Russian Foreign Minister states that there are obligations regarding missile defense in the treaty text that constitute “a legally binding package.”  

In the preamble, the treaty recognizes "the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties." Article V, Section 3 of the treaty text, places restrictions on converting ICBM and SLBM launchers for placement of missile defense interceptors. The Unilateral Statement issued by the Russian side on missile defense released the same day as the full agreed-upon treaty text in Prague on April 8 states that the treaty "can operate and be viable only if the United States of America refrains from developing its missile defense capabilities quantitatively or qualitatively." Finally, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated “We have not yet agreed on this [missile defense] issue and we are trying to clarify how the agreements reached by the two presidents…correlate with the actions taken unilaterally by Washington,” and added that the “Obama administration had not coordinated its missile defense plans with Russia.”

When taken together, the Treaty Preamble, Russian unilateral statement, and pronouncements by senior Russian officials suggests the Russians believe there is a linkage between certain U.S. missile defense activities and their adherence to the treaty. While the Obama administration had made it clear that the treaty in no way limits any U.S. missile defense activity, what is more important is what the Russians think.  

We do know that Russia believed the deployment of ten ground-based interceptors in Poland constituted a threat, even though we offered persuasive evidence to the contrary. We don’t know if the Russians will construe the deployment of advanced versions of the SM-3 missiles in Europe as a potential threat as well. We also don’t know what the Russians think constitutes a “qualitative” or “quantitative” improvement in U.S. missile defense capabilities that could impact their strategic capabilities.  

Next week, Russian President Medvedev will be meeting with President Obama and one of the items on President Medvedev’s agenda is U.S. missile defense.  These points of friction need to be resolved before the Senate ratifies this treaty. I do not believe there should have been any ties to missile defense included in this treaty. However one way to address this concern is by making it clear in the Resolution of Ratification that the U.S. will not be limited, in any fashion, in its missile defense deployments by the New Start Treaty.


Verification is critical to ratification and enforcement of this treaty. The verification process contained in this treaty must ensure treaty obligations can be monitored on both sides. As President Reagan put it, “trust but verify.”
However, verification appears to be less robust than in the 1991 treaty. We have heard repeatedly by Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, the head treaty negotiator, that the verification procedures are simpler and cost less. Given that the verification measures for this treaty have been ‘simplified’, I am concerned that it will make it harder for our intelligence community to monitor Russian nuclear forces and may require additional resources, which we do not currently have, to ensure we are adequately monitoring Russian nuclear force developments. I am also concerned that 18 inspections per year, or 180 inspections in 10 years, is not robust enough given the fact we conducted on the order of 600 inspections during the 15 years of START I.

The top verification priorities need to be accuracy and effectiveness, not simplicity and cost.  This Senate is still waiting on the National Intelligence Estimate that will assess our ability to monitor the treaty. We need to understand what methodology was used determine the number of inspections that would be undertaken each year as well as what our confidence level is regarding knowing precisely how many weapons and launchers, including MIRV’ed road mobile missiles, Russia will be building and deploying under the new treaty.


In no uncertain terms, the U.S. must maintain her nuclear arsenal in order to deter attacks on our nation and over 30 international allies that are protected by our nuclear umbrella. This reduces proliferation by their continued reliance on our nuclear deterrent rather than to develop their own, and deters our enemies from using weapons of mass destruction against our country or our allies. As Secretary Gates stated back in October 2008, “As long as others have nuclear weapons, we must maintain some level of these weapons ourselves to deter potential adversaries and to reassure over two dozen allies and partners who rely on our nuclear umbrella for their security, making it unnecessary for them to develop their own.”

However, new START is rooted in the paradigm of the Cold War…it is reactive vice proactive. New START focuses on reducing the strategic nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States and fails to address proliferation of nuclear weapons in other countries, the large number of tactical nuclear weapons and the increased threat of a nuclear terrorist attack. New START does not reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism and proliferation and it does not ensure all existing weapons remain secure.


The decision to commit the United States to international obligations must be made carefully and must be based on whether such a treaty will secure tangible benefits for the United States while ensuring there are little or no attendant risks. Unfortunately, we lack clarity and specificity with respect to this Treaty.  

This Senate must receive a comprehensive net assessment of benefits, costs, and risks with clear and precise listing of terms, definitions and banned and permitted actions. Moreover, this Senate must continue to hold a series of follow on hearings that will provide all committees of jurisdiction greater details on the military, political, technical, and intelligence issues associated with new START ratification.  

I for one cannot support a treaty that reduces our nuclear stockpile without specifying the means of verification, does not fully funding nuclear enterprise modernization, and fails to ensure that the resulting force structure will be able to provide a viable nuclear deterrent.

I see no way the President can ask the Senate to take up the new START ratification before acting upon these recommendations. This will take time and this body should not be rushed: whether the President wants this ratified before November or not.

In conclusion, I would reiterate that in evaluating treaties which bear upon the national security of the United States, we must weigh carefully the tangible benefits of any such treaty against the potential risks and costs. In its current state, I do not believe this treaty is in the best interest of the United States as it will have profound negative implications on our national security.