'Cliff' Bill Removes Arms Control Hurdle

Article excerpt

A little-noticed section in the bill to avoid the "fiscal cliff" alters language in another recently enacted law that would have prevented the United States from reducing the size of its strategic arsenal. The Obama administration had objected to the original language, arguing that it represented an unconstitutional constraint on presidential authority.

The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act had required the president to certify that Russia is "in compliance with its arms control obligations with the United States" before the United States reduces the number of its strategic delivery systems. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) requires such reductions.

In the Jan. 2 statement that Obama issued as he signed the defense bill into law, he called the language "deeply problematic," saying it would "impede the fulfillment of future U.S. obligations agreed to" in New START and "hinder the Executive [Branch]'s ability to determine an appropriate nuclear force structure."

According to congressional aides, State Department staffraised concerns at the last minute about the language because the United States has been unable to certify that Russia is in compliance with some of its obligations under several arms control treaties, in particular, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. …