Senate Committee Schedules Hearing for New START

September 3, 2010

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, for a hearing during the week of September 13. The New START is a bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Russia. It will reduce the number of nuclear warheads deployed on delivery vehicles, such as bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and will reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 within seven years.

President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed the New START in Prague on April 8, 2010. Now it must be ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Russian Parliament in order to enter into force. The previous treaty, often called START I, entered into force in December 1994 and expired last December.

Ralph Hutchinson, of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, wrote recently that the New START "is the most important arms control treaty to come before the Senate in decades. It maintains an ongoing stockpile reduction trend and it contains crucial inspection and verification protocols that follow the 'trust, but verify' dictum [of Ronald Reagan]. Reducing the U.S. stockpile will save hundreds of millions of dollars while still maintaining a robust nuclear arsenal. ... Failure to ratify, though, costs us most of our capacity to monitor Russia's nuclear ambitions. It seems like a no-brainer."

But in August, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, said that he was seeking $10 billion more over the next decade for "modernization" of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex than President Obama has proposed. Kyl said Republicans were seeking "a more precise and higher degree of commitment" in order to modernize the complex, "so that we know that this program is not going to go for a while and peter out."

President Obama has already proposed the largest increase in nuclear weapons funding ever. According to Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the average funding during the Cold War, in constant 2010 dollars, was a little more than $5 billion a year. See "Follow The Money" The Obama Administration proposes successive annual increases that will rise to $9 billion in 2018, an $80 billion investment over the decade. These figures do not include Department of Defense funding for deployment and maintenance of more than 5,000 nuclear warheads, currently estimated at $30 billion a year.

If you would like to be part of the growing grassroots campaign for ratification for a New START, there are several options, including the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World and The Prague Project, which is bringing a new generation to nuclear policy Check them out.

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