ICAS Special Contribution


U.S. National Security and Our Nuclear Weapons Complex

Robert P. Casey

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Email: icas@icasinc.org

Biographic Sketch & Links: Robert P. Casey

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge the special contribution of this paper
with written permission to ICAS of Robert P. Casey. sjk]

[U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, delivered remarks on the Senate floor on national security, nuclear terrorism, nuclear nonproliferation and the nuclear weapons complex. Full text of Senator Casey's speech is below:]

U.S. National Security and Our Nuclear Weapons Complex

Robert P. Casey

Mr. President, I rise to express support for the Administration's efforts on nuclear nonproliferation. Nuclear terrorism poses the most serious threat to our security as well as others around the world. We have a solemn responsibility to do what we can to combat the threat of nuclear weapons. The Obama Administration has set forth a vision which puts American security first in pursuit of a world where terrorists cannot acquire weapons of mass destruction. The Senate also has an important leadership role to play and our number one obligation should be to protect the American people.

In Prague last April, President Obama described the steps that the United States is prepared to take towards a world without nuclear weapons. In expressing this goal, the President acknowledged the necessity of maintaining our weapons complex while simultaneously working to negotiate agreements that decrease the number of nuclear weapons in the world. He said, "Make no mistake – as long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies…but we will begin the work of reducing our arsenal."

This January, a bipartisan group of American national security leaders came together to help guide our thinking on these important issues. Former Secretary of State George Schultz, Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, Former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Senator Sam Nunn all have stellar national security experience and credentials. They wrote and I quote, "Nuclear weapons today present tremendous dangers, but also an historic opportunity. U.S. leadership will be required to take the world to the next stage -- to a solid consensus for reversing reliance on nuclear weapons globally as a vital contribution to preventing their proliferation into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world." President Obama is willing and able to provide this leadership at this critical point in history.

The Administration is in the final stages of negotiating the START treaty with Russia. This treaty would reduce deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Russia and would provide crucial verification measures that would allow a window into the Russian nuclear program. While this treaty has taken a little longer than expected to complete, I applaud the leadership of Assistant Secretary for Verification, Compliance and Implementation Rose Gottemoeller and her efforts to pursue a strong agreement as opposed to a immediate agreement. A new START agreement is in our national security interests, especially in terms of maintaining verification and transparency measures. Once complete, this agreement could help to strengthen the U.S.-Russia relationship and potentially increases the possibility of Russian cooperation on an array of thorny international issues including North Korea and Iran.

The START follow-on treaty is also a clear demonstration that the United States is upholding our disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, one of the Treaty's three pillars in addition to nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. START is a necessary step in reaffirming U.S. leadership on nonproliferation issues. Without a clear commitment to our nonproliferation responsibilities through a new START agreement, it will be increasingly difficult for the U.S. to secure international support in addressing the urgent security threats posed by the spread of nuclear weapons.

An essential element of securing our nuclear weapons complex begins here at home. Last Thursday, Vice President Biden spoke at the National Defense University about the Administration's efforts to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.

I would like to request that the Vice President's speech be entered into the record.

In this piece, the Vice President said that recent years have seen a slow but steady decline in support for our nuclear stockpile and infrastructure and for our highly trained nuclear workforce.

The national security statesmen I previously referred to agree. In January, Schultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn wrote that "these investments are urgently needed to undo the adverse consequences of deep reductions over the past five years in the laboratories' budgets for the science, technology and engineering programs that support and underwrite the nation's nuclear deterrent."

JASON – an independent defense advisory group of senior scientists – also echoed these same concerns in a recent study. The JASON group found that the lifetimes of today's warheads could be extended for decades. That was the good news. While the weapons are in good shape, JASON is concerned that maintenance of the stockpile relies on the "renewal of expertise and capabilities in science, technology, engineering and production unique to the nuclear weapons program" and that this expertise was "threatened by lack of program stability, perceived lack of mission importance, and degradation of the work environment."

The Administration's budget request reflects these concerns. The FY11 budget request devotes $7 billion to maintaining our nuclear-weapons stockpile and complex, and for related efforts. Delivering on promises made in Prague and elsewhere, this Administration has demonstrated that a clear commitment to a nuclear non-proliferation strategy is an integral part of our security and that of our allies. As Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher said recently, "Nuclear disarmament is not the Holy Grail. As long as we see the rise of nuclear weapons in other countries we will maintain a deterrence that is second to none." This approach is smart, strategic and measured -- and it puts American security first.

And so I stand in support of full funding for the Administration's nuclear weapons stockpile and complex request.

Key dimensions of our nuclear complex are the nuclear labs and resident scientific expertise. We need to be able to continue to recruit the most highly qualified and motivated experts tasked with stockpile maintenance. Our three national laboratories – Lawrence Livermore in California, Los Alamos in New Mexico and Sandia in New Mexico and California – are staffed by gifted public servants who have established methods for verifying the safety, security and reliability of our stockpile. This budget will help to ensure that the most talented scientists continue to be attracted to our labs and that these labs continue to be state of the art.

The Administration's 2011 budget request also bolsters the case for the eventual ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. A full investment in our nuclear weapons infrastructure will mean that the United States can continue to maintain its nuclear weapons infrastructure without testing. We haven't tested a nuclear weapon since 1992 because we now have the technical means to ensure the reliability and safety of our stockpile without testing.

This is an issue of national security, and preventing nuclear terrorism. By working to diminish the access to fissile material, by working to ensure that Russia and the U.S. decrease nuclear stockpiles, by promoting a ban on nuclear testing and by ensuring that our nuclear arsenal is safe and secure – all of these measures as well as others will help to create an international environment where terrorist access to fissile material is diminished. Senator Lugar has been a remarkable leader in this regard in promoting the Nunn-Lugar program. I agree with his efforts to secure more funding as the mandate of the program has expanded without commensurate resources. Senator Lugar reports that the program "has eliminated more nuclear weapons than the combined nuclear arsenals of France, China and the United Kingdom for less than $3 billion – a striking return on investment." A striking return indeed.

Finally, I would also like to express support for the Administration's requested increase in funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). For too long the IAEA's technical assistance and cooperation programs have been underfunded. International non proliferation efforts face an uncertain future. Iran and North Korea are our primary concerns, but potential nuclear flashpoints remain between India and Pakistan and the security of fissile material, while improving, remains a vital concern. In order for the IAEA to be best positioned to confront proliferation efforts in North Korea and Iran as well as monitor the peaceful nuclear energy programs in countries around the world, its budget needs to reflect this growing portfolio. U.S. leadership in nonproliferation is essential. A fully funded IAEA will complement U.S. efforts to combat proliferation at this critical time.

These investments in our national security are substantial, but there is no greater threat than that of nuclear terrorism. We must remain vigilant in doing everything we can to ensure that terrorists do not get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. The non-proliferation measures mentioned above all help to address this threat. To keep America safe, Democrats, Republican and Independents must work together to promote non-proliferation and confront nuclear terror by ensuring that our existing nuclear arsenal is safe, secure and effective.

This page last updated 3/5/2010 jdb

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