Work taking place under the 16-month-old new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia fosters transparency and predictability for the world’s two largest deployed nuclear arsenals, federal officials told a Senate panel June 21.
Among those testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations were Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Madelyn R. Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs.
“Our experience so far demonstrates that the New START’s verification regime works and will help push open the door to new and more complicated verification techniques in the future,” said Gottemoeller, who led the U.S. treaty negotiating team as assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance.
The Senate approved the treaty in 2010, and the related legislative process produced a federal commitment to spend $185 billion over 10 years to modernize nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
“When the treaty is fully implemented, it will result in the lowest number of deployed nuclear warheads since the 1950s, the first full decade of the nuclear age,” Gottemoeller said, “and 1,550 warheads deployed on or counted on 700 delivery vehicles — that is, intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launch ballistic missiles and bombers.”
When the first START treaty was signed in 1991, she added, the United States and the Soviet Union each had deployed about 10,550 nuclear warheads.
During the first year of the new treaty, the United States and Russia kept pace with each other in conducting inspections, she said, both completing the yearly maximum of 18 inspections. Today, each side can make 25 short-notice inspections a year, and inspections have taken place involving intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, heavy bombers at their operating bases, storage facilities, conversion or elimination facilities, and test ranges.
“Through inspection activities, we have acquired new and valuable information,” Gottemoeller told the panel. “For example, New START includes intrusive reentry vehicle inspections that are designed to confirm the exact number of re-entry vehicles, or warheads, on individual missiles selected for inspection. We are now able to confirm the exact number of warheads on any randomly selected Russian ICBM and SLBM – something we were not able to do under the 1991 START treaty.”
The exhibition process, another aspect of treaty implementation, gives both parties a chance to see new kinds of strategic offensive arms, view distinguishing features and confirm declared data.
“The United States and Russian Federation have also been sharing a veritable mountain of data with each other,” the undersecretary said.
“Since entry into force we have exchanged over 2,500 notifications through our Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers,” she added. “They help track movement and changes in the status of systems on a day-in, day-out basis.
“That,” Gottemoeller continued, “combined with the databases that we exchange every six months, gives us an opportunity to have a kind of living database – a truly real-time look at what is going on inside the Russian strategic forces.”
Testifying on the implications for U.S. nuclear forces and policy of the new START treaty, Creedon said implementation is proceeding successfully and the Defense Department is fully engaged in meeting its treaty obligations.
DOD has hosted multiple inspection activities at U.S. strategic facilities and has participated in reciprocal activities at Russian strategic facilities, the assistant secretary added.
“The United States is on track to complete the reductions necessary to comply with the New START treaty’s central limits by February 2018,” Creedon said, adding that DOD plans to retain 240 deployed Trident SLBMs on Ohio-class submarines, up to 60 deployed heavy bombers and up to 420 single-warhead Minuteman III ICBMs.
“To meet the treaty’s central limits,” she said, “the Obama administration plans to convert or eliminate a yet-to-be-determined combination of ICBM launchers and SLBM launchers [and] our nuclear-capability heavy bombers.”
The service life of the department’s Trident II D5 SLBMs is being extended to 2042, and construction of the first Ohio-class replacement submarine is scheduled to begin in 2021, she added.
The administration plans to sustain Minuteman III ICBMs through 2030, and the United States will maintain two nuclear-capable B-52H strategic bomber wings and one B-2A wing.
The department also is working to complete a comprehensive drawdown plan, a substantial portion of which will be completed to support the fiscal 2014 budget request, Creedon added.
“As the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2013 makes clear, DOD is committed to modernizing the delivery systems covered by the New START treaty that underpin nuclear deterrents,” the assistant secretary said.
Maintaining strategic stability, assuring allies and sustaining a safe, secure and effective deterrent requires a partnership between the executive branch and Congress, she added.