Senate Appropriators Defy Administration On Nukes

Kingston Reif and I have a new analysis on the Center website of the FY 2015 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Here is an excerpt:

A new Senate bill released in late July contains a number of small but critically important victories, most notably in the realm of funding nuclear material security and nonproliferation.

As a budget battle between the President and Congress rages on, there is a conspicuous difference in the level of funding requested by the White House versus that approved by Senate Appropriators for programs that make us safer from the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism. It is hard to understand why the Obama administration, whose stated priorities make nuclear nonproliferation a top priority, has for the past three years cut the budget for these very activities. Luckily, the Senate continues to restore the funding, as evidenced by its recent action. However, in past years the higher Senate funding levels have not survived in the final spending bills passed by Congress.

The contradiction between the President’s words about preventing nuclear terrorism and the dwindling resources he has requested in his budget submissions is concerning because it represents an unsustainable punt to Congress at a time when lawmakers are mandating significant reductions in government spending. Despite the Senate’s best efforts, Congress has not restored funding to sufficient levels in its final spending bills. What’s more, even the Senate’s current prioritization of nonproliferation programs could evaporate if the Senate changes hands next year.

Read the full analysis here

A Look at the New House Republican Leadership on National Security and Nuclear Weapons

By Kingston Reif and Jessica Estanislau

The November 2010 elections saw the Republicans take back the House of Representatives.  The change in power means that there are new Sheriffs in town calling the shots on the key House Committees dealing with nuclear weapons.  Below are brief profiles of the new leaders of three key Committees and Subcommittees: Foreign Affairs, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairwoman, Committee on Foreign Affairs

New House International Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen intends to play a very active role on nuclear policy-related issues.  Two areas in particular are likely to come under her close scrutiny.  First, Ros-Lehtinen has long been a skeptic of U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries.  She opposed the U.S.-Russia 123 agreement, which entered into force last December, and has taken a hard line on administration plans to negotiate similar such deals with Jordan, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.  Ros-Lehtinen also raised questions about deals negotiated by the George W. Bush administration.  For example, she was one of the few members of Congress to express reservations about the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement.  And although she ultimately supported the U.S.-India Nuclear deal, she co-sponsored a bill to strengthen the agreement which caused unease in India.  Look for her to introduce legislation in the 112th Congress to revamp Congressional procedures for considering civilian nuclear cooperation agreements.  Second, Ros-Lehtinen is an advocate of tougher punitive measures against and Iran and North Korea.  Instead of pursuing a strategy of engagement toward these regimes, she believes that the U.S. must impose tougher sanctions than the Obama administration seems willing to pursue.

Michael Turner (R-OH), Chairman, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Armed Services Committee

As Ranking Member on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee in the 111th Congress, Michael Turner was a thorn in the side of the President’s nuclear risk reduction agenda.  During the House Armed Services Committee’s consideration of the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act last May, Turner offered a sense of congress amendment proclaiming that the Nuclear Posture Review weakens U.S. national security by taking options off the table to respond to a catastrophic nuclear, chemical, biological, or conventional attack.  The amendment was included in the House version of the bill but was expunged from the final bill that passed in the lame duck session of the Congress.  Turner is also a strong advocate of U.S. missile defense programs.  He was skeptical of the Obama administration’s September 2009 decision to cancel the Bush-planned system for establishing a third site for National Missile Defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.  He also accused the administration of slashing funding for missile defense systems and offered amendments to the Defense Authorization Bill to restore that funding.  In March 2010, Tuner released letters from each of the three directors of the U.S. national nuclear weapons laboratories questioning the conclusion drawn by the JASON defense advisory group that “[l]ifetimes of today’s nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in confidence, by using approaches similar to those employed in LEPs [Life Extension Programs] to date.”  Finally, last December Turner organized a letter with Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and 14 other House Republicans urging the Senate to delay consideration of the New START treaty until 2011. Expect Turner to continue to cast doubt on the Obama administration’s initiatives on nuclear issues in the 112th Congress.

(Note: for an earlier profile of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, see here.)

Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman, Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, Appropriations Committee

As the new Chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Freylinghuysen will have an enormous say over funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons activities and defense nuclear nonproliferation accounts.  Freylinghuysen was a strong supporter of the administration’s FY 2011 budget increases for life extension programs and the construction of new nuclear facilities in Tennessee and New Mexico.  However, Freylinghuysen cast doubt on the merits of the administration’s request for an additional $320 million for nuclear security programs, noting in March 2010 that while the President’s goal to secure all vulnerable materials was “laudable”, it is “not well defined and I’m worried about implementation.” Addressing the overall increase in the energy and water appropriations bill, Frelinghuysen said “My constituents are increasingly concerned about the country’s growing budget deficit and are calling for budget cuts, not budget increases,” he said.  Despite these concerns, the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee fully funded the administration’s FY 2011 request for nonproliferation programs, with his support.

How New START Was Won

I’ve got a new piece up over at the mothership outlining the key factors in New START’s success.  You can read it here.

Here’s the intro:

On February 2, President Obama officially ratified the New START treaty in a low-key signing ceremony at the White House. The eight month-long campaign to win the Senate’s approval of the treaty, however, was anything but low-key. It was a knock down, drag out fight, the outcome of which was in doubt until the very end.

The enormity of the achievement should not be taken for granted.

Sure, New START had a lot of things going for it. Substantively it was a very modest treaty and enjoyed the support of our entire military leadership and just about every national security expert on the planet. Fifty six Democratic and two independent Senators were locks to support it, meaning the administration needed to win nine Republican votes. And the treaty had the strong backing of a President deeply committed to nuclear risk reduction.

But the treaty faced enormous obstacles, the most significant being a political environment defined by extreme partisanship. In the end, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip Jon Kyl opposed the treaty. So too did John McCain and Lindsay Graham, both considered to be moderate Republican leaders on defense policy. No previous arms control agreement has ever been approved under such circumstances.

Below I’ve tried to identify some of the key factors that pushed New START across the finish line. I’ve divided them into four levels of analysis: the administration, the Senate, the media, and NGO and grassroots. The list is not exhaustive, nor does it seek to identify lessons learned, although there are many, both positive and negative.

In general, the administration and its allies in the Senate kept New START on the path to approval by painstakingly working to build a bipartisan majority, rather than by humiliating or shaming undecided Republican Senators. Much to the chagrin of some treaty supporters, this required negotiation, compromise, and logrolling. Equally important, the administration and its allies called on key military leaders and former Republican officials to publicly and privately stress the national security merits of the treaty and its importance for U.S. leadership. They capitalized on the other side’s mistakes. And they benefited from some luck. That is how New START was won.

Last word (until the next word) on Keith Payne and New START

Following the Russian Duma’s third and final vote of approval of the New START treaty on Tuesday, the upper house of the Russian Federal Assembly (known as the Federation Council) gave its approval on Wednesday by a unanimous vote of 137-0.  The treaty will enter into force once the U.S. and Russia exchange what are known as “instruments of ratification” (the official treaty documents that Presidents Obama and Medvedev actually sign).  Last week we speculated that this could happen as early as next weekend on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. (UPDATE 1/31: The speculation was correct: The U.S. and Russia will exchange instruments of ratification on February 5 on the sidelines of the Munch Security Conference. Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov will do the honors.)

The initial exchange of data on missiles, launchers, heavy bombers, and warheads subject to the treaty is required 45 days after the treaty enters into force.  The right to conduct on-site inspections begins 60 days after entry into force (i.e. sometime in April).

The ratification of New START is a big deal for all of the reasons the administration, the military, NoH, and so many others have laid out over and over again over the past two years. Yet Keith Payne is pointing to the Federal Assembly’s consideration of the treaty as evidence that he was right to oppose it.  For Payne, the politics of churlishness appears to continue to take precedence over the best judgment of our military leadership…  

In a parting shot at New START published in the National Review, Payne alleges that the Obama administration misinformed the Senate about the nature of the reductions required by the treaty. “The Obama administration typically presented the treaty as requiring Russian reductions,” he writes, while in reality Russia plans to reduce its stock of deployed delivery vehicles and warheads with or without New START.  Payne has been beating this drum for over 18 months, but thinks he’s found the smoking gun in the form of Russian Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov:

“Now — after the U.S. Senate has approved New START — senior Russian officials have confirmed the fears of U.S. skeptics. An Interfax-AVN article entitled “Russia’s Current Number of Nuclear Arms Well Within START Limits” reports that in a speech to the Duma about New START, Russian Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov said that Russia will not eliminate any nuclear launcher or warhead before the end of its service life: “We will not cut a single unit.” The article reports that Serdyukov explained to the Duma that “Russia today has fewer nuclear warheads and delivery systems than the quantity set by the new Russian-American treaty” and that “by all the parameters, even launchers, we will only achieve the level that’s in the treaty by 2028. As for nuclear weapons, we will get there by 2018.” The Duma presumably appreciated the news.”

There is far less here than may meet the eye.  First, the administration never argued that the treaty will require Russia to reduce its delivery vehicles.  In a June 14 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated: “The Russians, the number of their strategic nuclear delivery vehicles is in fact below the treaty limits, but the number of warheads is above the treaty limits. So they will have to take down warheads.”      

Regarding warheads, it appears that Defense Minister Serdyukov told the Federal Assembly that Russia won’t eliminate any systems before the end of their service life, which isn’t the same thing as saying that Russia won’t have to eliminate any warheads.  According to unclassified estimates, Russia currently deploys approximately 2,600-2,800 warheads.  In order to get down to the 1,550 limit in the treaty, Russia will eliminate the warheads on its oldest delivery vehicles – namely those on the SS-19 and SS-25 ICBMs and SS-N-18 SLBMs that it plans to retire in the coming years.

As I’ve noted before, the fact the some Russian reductions might happen in any event is beside the point.  New START is not in the first instance a reductions treaty, although some reductions in deployed forces are required.  Rather, the treaty’s legally-binding limits and data exchange, monitoring, and verification provisions will place a cap on Russia’s deployed forces.  The administration has always been crystal clear about this.  As STRATCOM Gen. Kevin Chilton pointed out in April 2010: “One thing I was pleased to see in the treaty were these limits because as you look to the future though Russia may be close to or slightly below them already, when you look to the future we certainly don’t want them to grow and they would have been unrestricted otherwise without these types of limits articulated in the treaty…”

Does Payne want to bet that Russia would continue to reduce its missiles and bombers without New START?  Our military certainly wouldn’t make such an irresponsible wager.  Without limits on the size of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, Russia would have less confidence in its ability to maintain a stable strategic nuclear relationship with the United States.  This could prompt Moscow to maintain a larger number of deployed delivery vehicles (and by extension warheads) than it plans to keep under New START.  Perhaps this is the outcome Payne hoped to see all along.  

Congress Doesn’t Show the Money for Nuclear Security

As most observers of Capitol Hill know, the appropriations process for FY 2011 has been a disaster.  The 111th Congress did not pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills that would fund the government for the current fiscal year.  An Omnibus appropriations bill that would have combined these 12 bills into a single bill failed in the Senate during the lame duck session due to Republican opposition.  This gridlock has claimed a number of casualties, none of which is more alarming than the budget for key programs to prevent dangerous nuclear materials from falling in the hands of terrorists.    

Instead of operating through normal appropriations bills, the government is being funded by a stopgap spending bill known as a Continuing Resolution (CR).  The current CR funds most government programs at FY 2010 enacted levels through March 4, 2011.  

A notable exception to this flat funding rule is the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) weapons activities account, one of the few programs funded at FY 2011 levels.  The CR matches the President’s FY 2011 budget request of $7 billion for NNSA, a $624 million increase over the FY 2010 appropriation.  The administration and key Senators lobbied hard for this exception as part of their effort to win Senate approval of the New START treaty.

Unfortunately, the equally essential cause of nuclear terrorism prevention didn’t receive the same special treatment – despite efforts to produce a different outcome…

In FY 2011, the Obama administration requested over $2 billion for international WMD security programs, including a $320 million increase over the FY 2010 budget in support of the global effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. The request includes significant increases for key threat-reduction and nonproliferation programs such as the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, the International Materials Protection and Cooperation Program, and the “Nunn-Lugar” Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

But the CR only funds these programs at FY 2010 levels for the first half of FY 2011.  This is a significant setback to efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism because the overall funding request and congressional appropriations for threat reduction in FY 2010 are not enough to meet the four year goal, something to which the administration has openly admitted.  The FY 2010 request was actually less than the amount Congress appropriated in FY 2009.  

For a detailed analysis of how the budget numbers for nuclear security under the CR will impact the four year goal, I highly recommend Michelle Marchesano’s recent policy update.  Michelle notes that NNSA might be able to perform some accounting gymnastics to boost funding for NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  But this program is only one piece of the nuclear security puzzle.  The bottom line is that failure to correct the shortfalls in the CR would significantly hamper the administration’s ability to meet the four year goal, generally, and meet its FY 2011 nonproliferation goals, more specifically.

How did we get to this point?  Last summer, both relevant House and Senate subcommittees fully funded the President’s FY 2011 request for nuclear security despite the current economic climate and competing funding demands.  Funding for these programs was also included in the original version of the CR prepared by the House and in the Senate version of the Omnibus bill. But it was dropped in the final CR in the last days of the lame duck.

From what I can tell the omission had very little to do with the merits of securing vulnerable nuclear materials – which enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support – and almost everything to do with the failure of the omnibus and some indiscriminate across the board cuts in the final CR.  In the end, these programs suffered because they weren’t deemed important enough to be treated as individual priorities (contra NNSA’s weapons activities account).  The “anti-spending” craze that currently grips Washington no doubt created a backdrop that contributed to this outcome.

The appropriations picture moving forward remains murky.  It’s certainly not out of the question that Congress could pass a year-long CR for FY 2011.  If an extended CR contains more exceptions than the current version, there’s a good chance the nuclear security money would be added.  If not, nuclear security program managers might have to look elsewhere to meet their FY 2011 commitments, perhaps via the reallocation of funds intended for other purposes.  An additional complicating factor is that the Republican-controlled House could try to increase funding for a litany of higher-profile defense-related programs, including missile defense.  Nuclear security is not likely to be its top priority.  

The Obama administration will of course have to play an active roll in lobbying for its nuclear security budget, just as it did for the FY 2011 money for nuclear “modernization” last fall.  By all accounts the administration remains strongly committed to its nuclear security goals.  Yet it was disconcerting to read a recent GAO report outlining the many gaps in the administration’s plan, including ill-defined objectives and benchmarks.  The report also revealed that the National Security Council apparently “does not consider the 4-year time frame for securing nuclear materials worldwide to be a hard and fast deadline.”

Last fall Duyeon Kim and I noted that despite numerous successes on the nuclear security front in 2010, “even greater international financial and political support will be required to meet the four-year deadline.”  Other countries must of course do their part, but U.S. leadership is critical to this effort.  As Alex Toma and Sarah Williams rightly put it:

Compelling critical programs to operate with insufficient budgets while expecting financial and political pledges from other countries is both hypocritical and irresponsible. Congress can – and should – take responsibility for their 11th hour edits to the CR and include funding that will meet our national security needs.

Russia’s Process for Ratification of the New START Treaty

By Kingston Reif and Jessica Estanislau

Now that the U.S. Senate has approved the New START treaty, the next step on the way to final entry into force (and the resumption of on-site inspections of U.S. and Russian deployed nuclear forces) is approval by the Russian legislature – aka the Federal Assembly of Russia.  The Federal Assembly consists of a lower house (the Duma) and an upper house (the Federation Council).  Russian law requires that both houses approve the treaty by a majority vote.  All indications are that this will happen before the end of the month.

Don’t expect a knock down, drag out fight over the treaty in Russia (as was the case in the U.S.).  The Russian legislative and executive branches are tied much more closely at the hip than their U.S. counterparts.  In other words, what Medvedev and Putin want, Medvedev and Putin will get.  And they want New START.

Which raises the question: Why has Russia waited until now to act on the treaty?  When the two sides signed New START last April, Moscow made it very clear that the Russian parliament would be synchronizing its ratification process with the U.S. process.  The reason for this is that the Russians feared that if they quickly ratified the treaty only to see the U.S. Senate eventually reject it, they would be the ones left holding the bag.

While the Russian legislature’s approval of the treaty remains assured, it has adjusted the review process to address the conditions attached to the New START resolution of ratification by the U.S. Senate…        

In July 2010, the international affairs committee and the defense committee in the Russian Duma recommended that the Duma ratify New START (without any reservations) at around the same time the U.S. Senate gives its approval.  However, in the aftermath of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s action on the resolution of ratification, which appended a total of 26 conditions, understandings, and declarations about how it interpreted the treaty, and due to continued delays in the full Senate’s consideration of the agreement, both Duma committees retracted their endorsement in order to reconsider the treaty.

Following the full U.S. Senate’s approval of New START on December 22, the Duma quickly gave its preliminary approval on December 24th by a vote of 350-58.   Prior to the Duma’s second reading of the treaty on January 14, Russian lawmakers added six articles to the ratification text that outline the Duma’s understanding of the treaty. Further tweaks to the text could be made in the lead up to the third and final vote in the Duma scheduled for January 25 or 26, after which the Federation Council is expected to give its prompt approval to the treaty. (UPDATE 1/21: In addition to the ratification text responding to the U.S. resolution of ratification, the Duma international affair committee has also prepared a supplementary statement “On the Provision of Combat Readiness and Development of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, the Nuclear Arms Segment and Defense Plants Operating in it.”)

Pavel and Jeffrey have posted a translation and some analysis of the Russian ratification text.   Nothing issued by either side changes the actual text of the treaty. From our vantage point most of it amounts to rhetorical throat-clearing in response to the Senate’s action on the treaty – save for perhaps the statement in Article 2 re: new kinds of strategic offensive weapons.   The parts on Russian strategic force modernization and missile defense are nothing new.  And it’s interesting that the ratification text describes the controversial New START preamble as having “indisputable significance” (according to the State Department’s translation) as opposed to being “legally binding.”  Or is this simply a distinction without a difference? In any event, as Pavel notes, “nothing [in the ratification text] strikes me as irreconcilable.”

Some New START critics have already latched on to the Russian ratification process to claim that their fears about the treaty are being realized.  NoH will touch on these claims in a later post.  In the meantime, look for Presidents Obama and Medvedev (or duly designated ambassadors) to exchange instruments of ratification sometime in late January or February, perhaps on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to be held February 4-6.

Dueling Quotes of the Day, Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) Edition

Note: Sorry for the lite blogging as of late.  Expect it to pick up over the next couple of weeks.

Asked if the final cost [of the UPF] will be somewhere between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion, [John] Howanitz [B&W Y-12’s senior vice president for transformation and projects] replied: ‘That’s the question of the day. If you ask me today, I will tell you that based on the information we have acquired, the pricing we have on hand, I’m very confident that this is a good estimate. But I’m not at 90 percent design. …Will it go down? I don’t know. Will it go up? I don’t know. But, if someone were to say, can someone come in and validate this, I would welcome anyone to come in and look at our product — in fact, the government has — and we have a good product.”

Via Frank Munger, January 18, 2010

NNSA is developing 10 new technologies for use in the UPF and is using a systematic approach—Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)—to gauge the extent to which technologies have been demonstrated to work as intended….However, NNSA does not expect all 10 new technologies to achieve the level of maturity called for by best practices before making critical decisions….In addition, DOE’s guidance for establishing optimal TRLs prior to beginning construction is not consistent with best practices or with our previous recommendations. As a result, 6 of 10 technologies NNSA is developing are not expected to reach optimum TRLs consistent with best practices by the time UPF construction begins. If critical technologies fail to work as intended, NNSA may need to revert to existing or alternate technologies, possibly resulting in changes to design plans and space requirements that could delay the project and increase costs.

GAO Report on the UPF, November 2010