June 29, 2007
By Baker Spring
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
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
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.
John J. Tkacik, Jr., "China's Quest for a Superpower Military,"
Heritage Backgrounder No. 2036, May 17, 2007, pp. 3-5, at
(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).
U.S. ratification of the CTBT would jeopardize the nationalsecurity of the United States by undermining its nuclear deterrent.
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
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