Congressional Record: July 31, 2001 (Senate)
Page S8481-S8482


      By Mr. CORZINE:
  S. 1285. A bill to provide the President with flexibility to set 
strategic nuclear delivery system levels to meet United States national 
security goals; to the Committee on Armed Services.
  Mr. CORZINE. Mr. President, today I am introducing legislation, the 
Strategic Arms Flexibility Act of 2001, that would restore the 
President's authority to manage the size of our Nation's nuclear 
stockpile by repealing an obsolete law that now prevents him from 
reducing the number of nuclear weapons. The Strategic Arms Flexibility 
Act of 2001 would reduce the risk of a catastrophic accident or 
terrorist incident, reduce tensions throughout the world, and save 
substantial taxpayer dollars.
  We have far more nuclear weapons than would ever be necessary to win 
a war. Based on START counting rules, we have 7,300 strategic nuclear 
weapons. Yet, as Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, we could 
eliminate more than half of these weapons and still, ``have the 
capability to deter any actor.'' Furthermore, the U.S. nuclear arsenal 
is equipped with sophisticated guidance and information systems that 
make our nuclear weapons much more accurate and effective than those of 
our adversaries. This is one reason why we should not be overly 
influenced by calls for maintaining strict numerical parity.
  While the huge number of nuclear arms in our arsenal is not necessary 
to fight a war, maintaining these weapons actually presents significant 
risks to national security.
  First, it increases the risk of a catastrophic accident. The more 
weapons that exist, the greater chance that a sensor failure or other 
mechanical problem, or an error in judgment, will lead to the 
detonation of a nuclear weapon. In fact, there have been many times 
when inaccurate sensor readings or other technical problems have forced 
national leaders to decide within minutes whether to launch nuclear 
weapons. In one incident, a Russian commander deviated from standard 
procedures by refusing to launch, even though an early detection system 
was reporting an incoming nuclear attack, a report that was inaccurate.
  The second reason why maintaining excessive numbers of nuclear 
weapons poses national security risks is that it encourages other 
nations to maintain large stockpiles, as well. The more weapons held by 
other countries, the greater the risk that a rogue faction in one such 
country could gain access to nuclear weapons and either threaten to use 
them, actually use them, or transfer them to others. Such a faction 
could obtain weapons through force. For example, there are many poorly 
guarded intercontinental ballistic missiles that are easy targets for 
terrorists. Senator Bob Kerrey, who introduced this legislation in the 
last Congress, speculated that a relatively small, well-trained group 
could overtake the few personnel who guard some of the smaller 
installations in Russia.
  Alternatively, a hostile group might be able simply to purchase 
ballistic missiles on the black market. This risk may be especially 
relevant in Russia, where many military personnel are poorly paid and a 
few may feel financial pressure to collaborate with those hostile to 
the United States. In addition, some have speculated that the high cost 
of maintaining a large nuclear stockpile could encourage some nuclear 
powers themselves to sell weapon technologies as a mean of financing 
their nuclear infrastructure.
  By reducing our own stockpile, we can encourage Russia to reduce its 
stockpile and discourage other nuclear states from expanding theirs. In 
particular, Russia is faced with the exorbitant annual cost of 
maintaining thousands of unnecessary ICBMs. The present state of 
Russia's economy leaves it ill-equipped to handle these costs, a fact 
readily admitted by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev. Russia has 
expressed an interest in reducing its stockpile dramatically, from 
about 6,000 weapons to fewer than 1,000. However, Russia is unlikely to 
make such reductions without a commensurate reduction by the United 
States. If the United States takes the first step, it would provide 
Russia with a face-saving way to do the same, without waiting for START 
II, which now appears unlikely to be ratified in the short term.
  Beyond the benefits to national security of reducing our nuclear 
stockpile, such a reduction also would save taxpayers significant 
amounts of money. According to the Center for Defense Information, in 
FY 01, the United States spent $26.7 billion on operations, 
maintenance, and development related the United States' nuclear 
program. Of that $26.7 billion, $12.4 billion, just under half, goes to 
build, maintain, and operate our arsenal of tactical and strategic 
nuclear weapons. Although a precise cost estimate is not available, it 
seems clear that reducing the stockpile of nuclear weapons would 
provide major cost savings.
  While a reduction in the nuclear stockpile would improve national 
security and reduce costs, the 1998 defense authorization act now 
prevents the President from reducing such weapons until the Russian 
Duma approves the START II treaty. The Bush Administration has made it 
clear that it wants this law repealed, and would like the authority to 
unilaterally reduce the nuclear stockpile. In hearings before various 
Senate Committees, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy 
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, have expressed the 
Administration's desire to retire immediately 50 unnecessary MX 
peacekeeper missiles with some 500 warheads. The Administration is 
still conducting a more comprehensive review and may well propose 
additional reductions. However, as Secretary Wolfowitz has testified, 
``we will need the support of the Congress to remove the current 
restrictions that prohibit us from getting rid of a nuclear system that 
we no longer need.''
  Some might question whether it is appropriate to reduce the United 
States stockpile without a direct assurance that other nations would 
reduce theirs by the same amount. However, this is flawed Cold War 
thinking. As Secretary Powell has stated, we have far more weapons than 
necessary to devastate any opponent, real or imagined, many times over. 
Clearly, we can reduce our stockpile without in any way reducing our 
nuclear deterrent, or our national security.
  Having said this, reducing the stockpile is not enough. We also need 
to encourage and assist others in doing so. In particular, it is 
important that we help Russia by providing aid for dismantling weapons 
and by offering other economic assistance. We also need to continue to 
negotiate arms reductions and non-proliferation agreements with other 
countries, including, but not limited to Russia. Unilateral action can 
provide many benefits, but we need multilateral agreements to more 
fully reduce the nuclear threat, and prevent the spread of nuclear 
technology. Ultimately, the nuclear threat is a threat to all of 
humanity, and all nations need to be part of a coordinated effort to 
reduce that threat.

  In recent months, we have renewed a long-standing debate about 
whether to deploy a national missile defense. Proponents of such a 
system argue that it would reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons 
by giving us the capacity to deflect incoming nuclear weapons. However, 
many have raised serious concerns about this approach, and the risk 
that it actually could reduce our national security by creating a new 
arms race and heightening international tensions.
  The bill I am introducing today offers a proven way to reduce the 

[[Page S8482]]

threat that can be accomplished quickly and without the controversy 
associated with a national missile defense system.
  There are few issues more important than reducing the risks posed by 
nuclear weapons. For the past half century, the world has lived with 
these weapons, and it is easy to underestimate the huge threat they 
represent. Yet it is critical that we remain vigilant and do everything 
in our power to reduce that threat. The fate of the world, quite 
literally, is at stake.
  I urge my colleagues to support this simple but powerful measure.