Senator Kyl: show me the money to modernize U.S. nukes
Where’s the money?
A key senator says the Obama administration needs to commit to more funding for modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons complex if it is to convince him that the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia is a good idea.
Republican Senator Jon Kyl said that in any case it’s debatable whether the new START treaty signed recently by President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev “is in the best interests of the United States.”
The new START treaty, which cuts the arsenals of deployed nuclear warheads in both countries by about 30 percent, must be approved by the Senate as well as the Russian parliament before it can go into force.
Obama will need some Republican support if he is to win the 67 votes needed for Senate consent. Kyl’s opinion matters because he is the Senate’s number two Republican, and he is considered something of an expert on nuclear weapons.
Administration officials already have proposed over $600 million in additional funding for maintaining the U.S. nuclear complex next year, as well as boosting funding for the complex by some $5 billion dollars over the next five years.
But in a speech to the National Defense University Foundation Tuesday, Kyl indicated he wants to see a modernization commitment lasting twice that long and involving a lot more money.
“Most experts believe it’s going to require a little over one billion a year for at least ten years, so you are in the order of 12, 13, maybe 15 billion over the course of 10 or 12 years,” Kyl said.
He also wondered whether the Democrat-dominated Congress would approve even the money that had been proposed for next year. “Before we get too happy about just saying we’re going to ratify START, let’s get the commitment,” Kyl said.
He wants to see the funding commitments in the 10-year plan for modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal that the administration is expected to present to the Senate next month.
“This modernization plan has to be a lot more than words and big commitments,” Kyl said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s got to be an absolute commitment to adequate funding for everything that has to be done …”
One member of Kyl’s audience thought differently. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said that the money the administration had proposed already was a significant increase.
“Senator Kyl doth protest too much,” Kimball said.
Photo credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts (Kyl at Senate hearing July 2009), Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama and Medvedev at Nuclear Security Summit)