June 29, 2007 | WebMemo on Department of Homeland Security
Section 3122 of the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (S. 1547) would express the sense of Congress that the Senate should consent to the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT would permanently prohibit explosive tests of nuclear weapons by the United States. U.S. ratification of the CTBT and the treaty's entry into force would jeopardize the vital national security interests of the United States by undermining its nuclear deterrent.
Procedurally, it is inappropriate for the Senate to even be considering the language in Section 3122. The Senate voted to reject ratification of the CTBT on October 13, 1999. This was a determinative action regarding CTBT ratification. Following that action, the treaty should have been returned to the executive branch, and the United States should have announced to other treaty signatories that it was no longer seeking ratification and reserved the right to take actions contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty. Furthermore, S. 1547 is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Treaty ratification properly falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As such, the Senate Armed Services Committee has usurped an authority properly given to a different committee.
Persistent Problems with the CTBT
Substantively, the shortcomings of the CTBT that the Senate found in 1999 persist today. The requirements of the treaty have not changed in any way since 1999, and the United States' security continues to require a nuclear arsenal that is safe, reliable, and militarily effective. Such an arsenal depends on preserving the option to conduct explosive tests of the weapons already in the arsenal for the purpose of developing new weapons to meet new requirements. CTBT ratification by the United States and its entry into force would lead to the same unacceptable outcomes that caused the Senate to reject the treaty in 1999. They are:
New Circumstances Increase Dangers of CTBT
Today's circumstances make U.S. ratification of the CTBT an even worse choice than it was in 1999. The Senate needs to consider the following three points:
For both procedural and substantive reasons, the Senate should not encourage ratification of the CTBT. The Senate rejected ratification in 1999 for good reasons, and those reasons are still pertinent today. Further, the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrence posture has declined in recent years for reasons of atrophy within the weapons complex and changing international circumstances. The United States has no margin for error in maintaining its national security in the context of its nuclear deterrent. Senate consent to the ratification of the CTBT entails nothing less than gambling with the survival of the United States.
Baker Spring is F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
 Congressional Record, 106th Congress, 1st Session, October 13, 1999, p. 12547.
 Baker Spring, "The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and U.S. Nuclear Disarmament," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1330, October 6, 1999, at www.heritage.org/static/reportimages/57155FD101EAD770ED84136FCBE9ADD7.pdf (June 26, 2007).
 Baker Spring, "Why the Administration's Stockpile Stewardship Program Will Harm the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent," Heritage Backgrounder No. 1334, October 7, 1999, at www.heritage.org/Research/MissileDefense/BG1334.cfm (June 26, 2007).
 Baker Spring, "The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: In Arms Control's Worst Tradition," Heritage Backgrounder No. 1332, October 7, 1999, at www.heritage.org/Research/MissileDefense/BG1332.cfm (June 26, 2007).
 Paul I. Bernstein, John P. Caves, Jr., and John F. Reichart, "The Future Nuclear Landscape," Occasional Paper, Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, National Defense University, April 2007, p. 29.
 Gene Aloise, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, General Accountability Office, letter to the Honorable Terry Everett and Silvestre Reyes, April 29, 2005, attached to GAO report No.GAO-05-636R, April 4, 2005.
 "Statement of Thomas P. D'Agostino, Acting Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Before the House Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces," March 20, 2007, p. 4.
 Bernstein, Caves and Reichart, "The Future Nuclear Landscape," pp. 25-27.
 John J. Tkacik, Jr., "China's Quest for a Superpower Military," Heritage Backgrounder No. 2036, May 17, 2007, pp. 3-5, at www.heritage.org/static/reportimages/325900663FF2BA31897D0CBA632D78C5.pdf (June 26, 2007).
 The Nuclear Stability Working Group, Nuclear Games: An Exercise Examining Stability and Defenses in a Proliferated World (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2005), at www.heritage.org/static/reportimages/5E28E3517AC99663EB6DDC9B1F77D865.pdf (June 26, 2007).