Obama Expands Modernization of Nuclear Arsenal

May 15th, 2010 - by admin

Peter Baker / The New York Times – 2010-05-15 00:47:23


WASHINGTON (May 13, 2010) — President Obama promised Thursday to spend $80 billion over 10 years to maintain and modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal, a commitment that could help win Republican support for his new arms control treaty with Russia.

The plan expands a previous proposal by Mr. Obama to upgrade nuclear infrastructure and was sent to the Senate along with the treaty and accompanying protocol and annexes. Mr. Obama called President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia as he kicked off his campaign to win Senate consent for the treaty.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will begin hearings next week, starting Tuesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The White House wants the treaty approved by summer, but it remains uncertain whether ratification could happen that soon.

“I’d like to see it happen before the election,” Mr. Obama told Russian state television last week. “Our hope is that they will be able to review it quickly and recognize that this is an important step in the efforts of both the United States and Russia to meet our obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty to lower our stockpiles.”

In a recent interview, Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who is the committee chairman, expressed optimism that he could win the two-thirds vote needed. “I want to do it as rapidly as we can,” he said.

Mr. Obama had proposed $7 billion for next year to upgrade the nuclear arsenal and comparable sums for several more years. The plan sent on Thursday extends the financing to 10 years, a more sustained commitment aimed at assuaging Republicans like Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who have made the issue a priority and linked it to the treaty.

The treaty requires each side to deploy no more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 bombers, missiles and submarine launchers, and it establishes a new verification system to replace the one that expired along with the original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in December.

Documents sent to the Senate detailed how the cuts would be made. At least 30 missile silos, 34 bombers and 56 submarine launch tubes would be taken out of service. But the United States could remove missiles from their silos without actually destroying them.

Most of the bombers will be converted to conventional use. None of the 14 strategic nuclear submarines will be retired; instead, each will have 4 of its 24 launchers removed.

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