Senate Begins Hearings on New START

By Collina, Tom Z. | Arms Control Today, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Senate Begins Hearings on New START


Collina, Tom Z., Arms Control Today


Seeking Senate approval by year's end, the White House transmitted the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and related documentation to the Senate May 13. On April 29, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began a series of hearings on the treaty with current and former administration officials, all of whom supported the pact.

In the opening round of the hearings, Democratic committee members and the ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), expressed support for the treaty, as did former officials from the Nixon, Ford, and George H.W. Bush administrations. Republican senators expressed concerns about the potential impact of New START on U.S. ballistic missile defense programs and about the adequacy of proposed investments in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, but stopped short of opposing the treaty.

Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said at a May 18 hearing he was "confident" that the Senate could reach a bipartisan consensus on the treaty, "just as we did on START I and the Moscow Treaty." The Senate approved START I in 1992 by a vote of 93-6 and endorsed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), also known as the Moscow Treaty, in 2003, 95-0.

A congressional aide told reporters May 13 that Kerry intended to complete hearings "in time for the Senate to take up the treaty before the August recess, if it so chooses." But the staffer said, "[W]hen it actually gets to the floor is something for the leadership on both sides of the aisle to work out."

President Barack Obama called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev May 13 to inform him that New START was being sent to the Senate, according to a May 13 White House statement. The two leaders "stressed the importance of completing the ratification process in both countries as soon as possible," the statement said. Medvedev sent New START to the Russian Duma May 28.

The two governments issued a separate joint statement May 13 that said New START, "in effect, marks the final end of the 'Cold War' period" and that they expect the new treaty to "pave the way for an increasingly productive and mutually beneficial partnership" between them.

Treaty Transmitted

The treaty package sent to the Senate included a letter of transmittal from Obama to the Senate; a letter of submittal from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Obama; the text of the treaty; the protocol and its annexes; a detailed report prepared by the Department of State analyzing each provision of the treaty known as the "article-by-article analysis;" and the unilateral statements issued by each side at the time of signature, which are not subject to advice and consent. In addition, the administration submitted a report required by section 1251 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010, which calls for a report on the plan to "enhance the safety, security and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile of the United States, modernize the nuclear weapons complex, and maintain the delivery platforms for nuclear weapons." Although the report is classified, the White House on May 13 released an unclassified summary.

Over the next decade, the summary says, the administration plans to invest "$80 billion to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex," in addition to "well over $100 billion in nuclear delivery systems to sustain existing capabilities and modernize some strategic systems." According to administration budget projections, funding for the nuclear weapons stockpile and infrastructure will rise from $6.4 billion in fiscal year 2010 to $9.0 billion in 2018, if approved by Congress.

Hearings Get Underway

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee began its hearings on New START before the treaty was formally transmitted, receiving testimony April 29 from James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense and of energy, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry.

In his opening statement, Lugar said he supported the treaty. …

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