This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Fellows who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
The Timing Just Isn’t Right
What is preventing the United States and Russia from pursuing further nuclear disarmament talks beyond the New START treaty?
In the U.S., a flurry of debate has taken place among elected officials and the arms control community since the enactment of the New START treaty. The debate has centered on determining the number of weapons needed to maintain a minimal deterrent, modernization of the strategic triad, the role of missile defense and what role and utility do nuclear weapons have in our defense strategy today. Skeptics of further disarmament have argued that larger reductions, without adequate modernization, will lead to instability by inviting aggression against allies who are considered protected by the U.S.’s extended deterrent. Those in favor of disarmament have countered that the current U.S. arsenal far exceeds what is necessary to deter nuclear attack and reducing the force level would be a smart way to meet defense spending targets set in the Budget Control Act. Despite the timeliness of the budgetary argument, the skeptics are clearly carrying the day, as both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act include robust funding levels for the nuclear triad and provide funding for large modernization projects not requested in the President’s budget.