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April 18, 2011

Congress Must Demand Details of New START Implementation

By and

New START, a bilateral arms control agreement with the Russian Federation, entered into force on February 5. This treaty is profoundly biased in favor of Russia.[1] It allows Moscow to build up its warheads and delivery vehicles, including intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and bombers. All cuts in delivery systems will be made by the United States, because the Russian Federation was in compliance with the treaty limits even before the treaty entered into force.[2] The Department of Defense, already hard hit by the realities of the current fiscal environment, will have to bear all of the costs associated with the treaty implementation and delivery system cuts.

Congress should demand that the Department of Defense provide it with a report outlining and describing how much the implementation of New START will cost in the course of the coming years.

Additional Costs Likely to Run High

The damage of New START goes well beyond the treaty’s sloppy provisions and inadequate verification procedures. The treaty stipulates that all of the reductions must be executed within seven years after its entry into force. Depending on the U.S. force structure, details of which will be classified, the United States will have to remove from operational status about 150 ICBMs and SLBMs.[3]

New START requires the parties to destroy only the first stages of ICBMs. This will be a costly and labor-intensive process. Until the first stages are destroyed, they will have to be kept in missile stage storage facilities built specifically for this purpose. Costs are likely to run high because facilities must comply with specific security and technological regulations.

The reminder of missiles—their second and third stages—will be kept for testing, space launch vehicles, or ballistic missile defense targets. Additional costs will be associated with a safe transport of the missiles from their respective air force and navy bases in the United States.

Allocation of New START Implementation Costs Is Unclear

The fiscal year (FY) 2012 defense budget is unclear as to how much the implementation of New START will cost. The only specific numbers pertaining to the treaty implementation are expenses related to training, equipping, organizing, deploying, and exercising operational control over inspection, monitoring, and escort teams for New START on-site inspections. In FY 2012, these costs are estimated to be over $8 million.[4]

This is likely only a small portion of the Pentagon’s comprehensive costs related to the implementation of the treaty. Obama Administration officials were equally silent on the issue of costs related to New START implementation during Senate committee hearings prior to the Senate’s consent to ratification of the treaty. It is unclear whether the air force or the navy will be required to build new storage facilities to accommodate missiles taken out of operational deployment as a result of New START.

Steps to Determine the Implementation Costs

Fortunately, Members of Congress can clarify the situation regarding costs of implementing New START.

Congress should include a provision in the defense authorization bill that would require the Department of Defense to provide it with a consolidated list of the expenditures by budget account. This effectively means that the Department of Defense would have to provide Members with a description of all the costs of provisions pertaining to New START implementation. This is essential for Congress to assess the implementation costs of New START.

Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy and Michaela Bendikova is Research Assistant for Missile Defense and Foreign 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.

Show references in this report



[1]New START Working Group, “An Independent Assessment of New START Treaty,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2410, April 30, 2010, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/04/An-Independent-Assessment-of-New-START-Treaty.

[2]Keith B. Payne, “Postscript on New START,” National Review Online, January 18, 2011, at http://www.nationalreview.com/author/210664/latest (April 14, 2011).

[3]“Nuclear Weapons Modernization: White House Lacks Commitment,” Heritage Foundation Factsheet No. 76, December 1, 2010, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/Factsheets/2010/12/Nuclear-Weapons-Modernization-White-House-Lacks-Commitment.

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