Lawmaker Blasts Timing of Nominee Statements on Alleged Arms-Control Breach

President Obama leads a meeting on the New START arm-control agreement in November 2010, prior to U.S. ratification of the pact with Russia. A Pentagon nominee on Tuesday said news of an alleged Russian arms-control violation began surfacing just as Congress was considering the New START accord.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
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Diane Barnes
Feb. 25, 2014, 9:59 a.m.

Sen­at­ors Ro­ger Wick­er (R-Miss.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) de­man­ded de­tails last Thursday from Bri­an McK­eon — Pres­id­ent Obama’s pick to take over as prin­cip­al deputy un­der­sec­ret­ary of De­fense for policy — to help de­term­ine wheth­er the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion delayed no­ti­fic­a­tion to Con­gress that Rus­sia might have vi­ol­ated the 1987 In­ter­me­di­ate-Range Nuc­le­ar Forces Treaty.

The law­makers sus­pect Obama of­fi­cials of hav­ing dragged their heels on trans­par­ency about Rus­si­an com­pli­ance as sen­at­ors con­sidered in 2010 wheth­er to rat­i­fy the New START nuc­le­ar-arms re­duc­tion pact with Mo­scow.

However, McK­eon said in­dic­a­tions of the pos­sible Rus­si­an in­ter­me­di­ate-range arms-con­trol vi­ol­a­tion began sur­fa­cing just as Con­gress was con­sid­er­ing ap­prov­ing the sep­ar­ate stra­tegic-re­duc­tions pact three years ago.

New START went on to be rat­i­fied in both na­tions and will take Wash­ing­ton and Mo­scow down to 1,750 de­ployed nuc­le­ar war­heads and 700 fielded de­liv­ery sys­tems apiece.

Speak­ing at his Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee nom­in­a­tion hear­ing on Tues­day, McK­eon said U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies might have “flagged” the pos­sible vi­ol­a­tion “lit­er­ally the day be­fore” the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee voted on rat­i­fy­ing New START in late 2010.

“I be­lieve … that the [in­tel­li­gence com­munity] and the ex­ec­ut­ive branch were com­mit­ted to provid­ing timely in­form­a­tion about po­ten­tial con­cerns,” McK­eon said.

Wick­er sug­ges­ted, though, that this week once again McK­eon is provid­ing pivotal in­form­a­tion too late for sen­at­ors and their staffs to handle.

The GOP law­maker said he and Ayotte had re­ceived McK­eon’s reply to their ques­tions at 8 p.m. on Monday of this week, “after most staff had left and after the Sen­ate had fin­ished vot­ing and people were on their way home.”

He said con­gres­sion­al aides would have needed ex­tra time to de­term­ine how the law­makers could fol­low up on the clas­si­fied an­swers dur­ing McK­eon’s pub­lic nom­in­a­tion hear­ing on Tues­day.

“If I were cyn­ic­al … I would ques­tion the fact that the re­sponse was de­livered so late and … in such a way that we’re really not able to get in­to the an­swers to our ques­tions in this hear­ing,” Wick­er groused.

McK­eon blamed bur­eau­crat­ic hurdles for his delayed re­sponse.

“One of the great joys of work­ing in the ex­ec­ut­ive branch as op­posed to the le­gis­lat­ive branch is, you get to co­ordin­ate your let­ters with about 50 people. And the clear­ance pro­cess took longer than I would have liked,” he said.

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