House Passes Bill Blocking U.S.-Russian Arms Control Funds

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands in February 2011 following the entry into force of the bilateral New START pact. The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted to provisionally block funding for implementation of the accord.
National Journal
Rachel Oswald
May 22, 2014, 10:53 a.m.

The U.S. House on Thursday ap­proved a bill that seeks to keep the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion from im­ple­ment­ing a stra­tegic arms con­trol treaty with Rus­sia.

In a vote of 233-191, Con­gress’ lower cham­ber ap­proved an amend­ment to its an­nu­al de­fense-au­thor­iz­a­tion le­gis­la­tion that would pro­vi­sion­ally block the Pentagon from us­ing any fisc­al 2015 funds to im­ple­ment the New START ac­cord. Ex­pendit­ures would be pro­hib­ited un­til Mo­scow is deemed in com­pli­ance with sev­er­al oth­er arms con­trol agree­ments, is “no longer il­leg­ally oc­cupy­ing” the Crimean Pen­in­sula, and ceases destabil­iz­ing activ­it­ies in oth­er parts of Ukraine.

The House went on to ap­prove the Fisc­al 2015 Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act by a 325-98 vote. The White House earli­er this week threatened to veto the bill over a num­ber of its nuc­le­ar non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, mis­sile de­fense and oth­er mil­it­ary meas­ures. The Sen­ate is cur­rently draft­ing its own ver­sion of the policy-set­ting le­gis­la­tion.

The New START pact entered in­to force in Feb­ru­ary 2011, after the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion lob­bied fiercely for its pas­sage in the Sen­ate. The treaty is con­sidered one of Pres­id­ent Obama’s key for­eign policy ac­com­plish­ments. It re­quires the United States and Rus­sia by 2018 to cap their re­spect­ive fielded long-range nuc­le­ar ar­sen­als at 1,550 war­heads. The pact also re­quires each side to lim­it to 800 its de­ployed and nondeployed stra­tegic de­liv­ery plat­forms, in­clud­ing bomber air­craft and ground- and sub­mar­ine-based bal­list­ic mis­siles.

The amend­ment on New START im­ple­ment­a­tion was in­tro­duced by Rep­res­ent­at­ive Doug Lam­born (R-Colo.), who sits on the House Armed Ser­vices Stra­tegic Forces Sub­com­mit­tee.

“I am pleased that the House ad­op­ted my res­ol­u­tion by an over­whelm­ing, bi­par­tis­an ma­jor­ity,” Lam­born said in an emailed state­ment to Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire. “I don’t think the United States should be spend­ing money to dis­arm ourselves — to dra­mat­ic­ally cut our stra­tegic nuc­le­ar de­terrent — if the oth­er party to the treaty re­quir­ing these cuts is veri­fi­ably dis­hon­est.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is on re­cord as be­ing con­cerned that Rus­sia may not be in com­pli­ance with the 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nuc­le­ar Forces Treaty, which out­laws either side from test­ing or de­ploy­ing any cruise or bal­list­ic mis­sile with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. The fo­cus of the con­cerns re­portedly is the test-launch­ing in re­cent years of dif­fer­ent mis­siles to ranges for­bid­den by the ac­cord.

“The Rus­si­an Fed­er­a­tion is clearly not trust­worthy,” Lam­born said. “Their ac­tions in Ukraine and vi­ol­a­tion of agree­ments such as the INF treaty and [Con­ven­tion­al Armed Forces in Europe Treaty] should be cause for great con­cern.” The lat­ter arms con­trol treaty is a mul­tina­tion­al pact that re­stricts de­ploy­ments of heavy con­ven­tion­al weaponry on the con­tin­ent; Rus­sia with­drew from the ac­cord in 2007.

The House also ap­proved an amend­ment — sponsored by Rep­res­ent­at­ive Trent Franks (R-Ar­iz.) — that would boost fisc­al 2015 fund­ing by $99 mil­lion for the pur­chase of Stand­ard Mis­sile 3 Block 1B in­ter­cept­ors.

“My amend­ment would re­store nine of the vi­tal SM3-1B in­ter­cept­ors this ad­min­is­tra­tion would have oth­er­wise cut from our de­fense budget,” said Franks, who co-chairs the Con­gres­sion­al Mis­sile De­fense Caucus, in a state­ment to GSN.

The Ray­theon Co.-pro­duced Block 1B mis­sile is de­signed to des­troy short- and me­di­um-range bal­list­ic mis­siles. The weapon is slated for de­ploy­ment on four U.S. Ae­gis-equipped war­ships homepor­ted in Spain and at an as-yet un­fin­ished in­stall­a­tion in Ro­mania, as part of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan for sup­port­ing NATO mis­sile de­fense.

The meas­ure off­sets the hike in spend­ing by mak­ing a $75.3 mil­lion cut to the budget of a cross-ser­vice re­con­nais­sance air­craft and a $23.7 mil­lion cut to an ef­fort to im­ple­ment be­ne­fit-re­form pro­pos­als in the De­fense Health Pro­gram.

“The rogue mis­sile threat to the United States and our al­lies is in­ar­gu­ably and re­lent­lessly ex­pand­ing,” Franks said. “The best way to neg­ate these threats is a cred­ible, com­pre­hens­ive mis­sile de­fense sys­tem.”

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