To save money and reduce the role that nuclear weapons play in U.S. national security, some defense experts have recommended eliminating one or more legs of the triad -- an option that more hawkish lawmakers typically reject (see GSN, Dec. 16, 2009).
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, spearheaded the New START Implementation measures, saying they would help ensure that the Obama administration remains accountable for nuclear modernization and arms control pledges it made last year during the treaty ratification process (see GSN, May 10).
In a bid to draw enough Republican votes in favor of the treaty to meet a required two-thirds majority, the White House said it would request more than $85 billion over the next decade to build new nuclear research and production facilities and overhaul aging warheads (see GSN, Nov. 15, 2010). The Senate ratified New START last December in a 71-26 vote, which included the support of 13 GOP lawmakers (see GSN, Dec. 22, 2010).
The White House budget office last month said that Obama's staff might recommend that he veto defense authorization legislation if it includes the House version's "onerous conditions on the administration's ability to implement the treaty, as well as to retire, dismantle or eliminate nondeployed nuclear weapons."
The House action, if ultimately embraced by a conference committee of lawmakers from both chambers, could also impede the government's capacity "to support the long-term safety, security and reliability of our nuclear deterrent," according to the budget office release.
"I don't know yet whether a [Statement of Administration Policy] will be released" in response to the new Senate committee legislation as well, OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly said in an e-mailed response to questions. "The administration has not yet taken a position" on it, she said.
Defense authorization bills typically lay out policy and programmatic direction for the Pentagon, while appropriations bills are required before money can be spent during a given fiscal year. Once reconciled by conference committees, the authorization and appropriations legislation are to be sent to the White House for presidential signature or veto.