USIS Washington File

06 October 1999

Text: Cohen Testimony on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

(Says treaty plays vital role in nuclear security) (3230)

Defense Secretary William Cohen told the Senate Armed Services
Committee October 6 that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) "by
banning nuclear explosive testing...removes a key tool that a
proliferator would need in order to acquire high confidence in its
nuclear weapon designs."

Cohen urged the Senate to ratify the treaty, which President Clinton
was the first head of state to sign and which the Senate had advised
in favor of negotiating.

"It is now the Senate's opportunity to advise and consent to the
ratification of this important treaty," Cohen said, adding that in
this constitutional ratification process "it is the role of the
secretary of defense to testify whether a proposed treaty is in the
national security interests of the United States. In the case of the
CTBT, I believe that it is."

He said a "sea change in the international environment" since the end
of the Cold War has made it possible for the United States to reduce
its nuclear forces and dismantle nuclear weapons. Scientists at the
Department of Energy have also made "significant breakthroughs in
their abilities to use simulations to model nuclear explosions and
otherwise ensure the reliability of the stockpile," Cohen said.

The increased threat from rogue nations seeking weapons of mass
destruction countered this positive change, he said, requiring
adoption of the CTBT "as an important element of our approach to
nuclear security in the post-Cold War world."

Following is the text of Cohen's remarks as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

Testimony of the Honorable William S. Cohen to the Senate Armed
Services Committee Hearing on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty, 6 October 1999

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Senate Armed Services
Committee, I am pleased to appear before you today to testify on the
national security implications of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty or, as it has been long referred to, the CTBT. The CTBT has
been a goal of the United States for over 40 years, beginning with
President Eisenhower who first opened negotiations on a test ban in
1958. However, neither President Eisenhower, nor President Kennedy in
1963, nor President Carter in 1977-1980 were able to conclude such a
treaty largely due to the then-indispensable role of nuclear testing
in ensuring a safe, reliable, and effective nuclear deterrent and to
the inability to verify compliance with a prohibition on nuclear
testing. As President Reagan put it in 1982;

"U.S. policy continues to endorse a Comprehensive Test Ban as a
long-term objective. This is to be achieved in the context of broad,
deep, and verifiable arms reductions, expanded confidence building
measures, improved verification capabilities that would justify
confidence in Soviet compliance with a Comprehensive Test Ban; and at
a time when a nuclear deterrent is no longer as essential an element,
as currently, for international security and stability."

As we are all aware, a sea change in the international environment has
occurred since 1982. The Warsaw Pact dissolved. The Soviet Union
fragmented. The Cold War ended. These changes in the strategic
environment made it possible for the United States to undertake large
reductions in the numbers of strategic and theater nuclear forces.
Thousands of nuclear weapons have been dismantled; thousands more are
slated for dismantlement. Moreover, U.S. conventional capabilities are
unequalled. Clearly, the United States is entering the new millennium
as the sole superpower. Additionally, our scientists at DOE have made
significant breakthroughs in their abilities to use simulations to
model nuclear explosions and otherwise ensure the reliability of the

At the same time that nuclear competition with another superpower
subsided, the threat has grown of rogue and other countries seeking
weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including nuclear weapons, as a
means either to offset our overwhelming conventional superiority or
because of regional rivalries.

In short, new circumstances required further consideration of a CTBT
and the Administration adopted the Treaty as an important element of
our approach to nuclear security in the post-Cold War world. The U.S.
took a lead role in the creation of this treaty. President Clinton was
the first head of state to sign it. Our lead was followed by 153
nations that have since become signatories. Having given its advice in
favor of negotiating a CTBT in the form of legislation in previous
years, it is now the Senate's opportunity to advise and consent to the
ratification of this important treaty. In this constitutional
ratification process, it is the role of the Secretary of Defense to
testify whether a proposed treaty is in the national security
interests of the United States. In the case of the CTBT, I believe
that it is.

National Security Benefits of the CTBT

To understand why, Mr. Chairman, we need only ask the question what
kind of world do we want -- one with more nuclear weapons or fewer. If
one believes the world is better if there are more nuclear weapons,
then a CTBT is not in our interest. But, if you believe, as I do, that
we will be safer in a world in which there are fewer nuclear weapons,
then we have to ask how we are going to restrain other states from
creating and building nuclear arsenals. The CTBT provides a compelling
answer. By banning nuclear explosive testing, the CTBT removes a key
tool that a proliferator would need in order to acquire high
confidence in its nuclear weapon designs.

Furthermore, the CTBT helps make it more difficult for Russia, China,
India, and Pakistan to improve existing types of nuclear weapons and
to develop advanced new types of nuclear weapons. In this way, the
CTBT contributes to the reduction of the global nuclear threat.

Thus while the CTBT cannot prevent proliferation or reduce the current
nuclear threat, it can make more difficult the development of advanced
new types of nuclear weapons, and thereby help cap the nuclear threat.
Similarly, the CTBT alone will not prevent emergence of new nuclear
threats to U.S. forces deployed overseas, because potential
proliferators can develop and stockpile simple fission weapons without
testing. However, the CTBT can keep the nuclear threat from becoming
greater than it otherwise could become. Proliferators, for example,
could not develop with confidence small, high yield strategic warheads
suitable for delivery by ballistic missiles.

The CTBT also establishes a mechanism that will allow us to have
greater confidence that its provisions are not being violated. The
International Monitoring System created by the Treaty will create 230
data gathering stations around the world beyond those possessed by the
United States. The information collected by these sensor-stations
would not normally be available to the U.S. intelligence community.
The CTBT also provides for possible on-site inspections should
technical evidence indicate a possible violation of the Treaty.

CTBT and Non-Proliferation

Finally, I must note that CTBT would promote U.S. non-proliferation
efforts. Strengthening international norms against the spread of
nuclear weapons, to the extent they can help prevent new nuclear
weapons states from emerging, is critically important to our national
security. In 1995, the 186 states parties to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty extended the duration of the NPT indefinitely
and unconditionally, but many did so because they viewed the
commitment of the declared nuclear weapon states to conclude a CTBT as
furthering the goals of nonproliferation. Hence, CTBT will help to
ensure a high level of international commitment to nonproliferation,
which includes not only the NPT itself but also associated safeguards,
administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which
monitors nuclear fuel and technology intended for peaceful purposes
against diversion to clandestine nuclear weapon programs, and nuclear
export controls.

The CTBT thus is an important element of a mutually reinforcing set of
tools to prevent and counter proliferation, which also includes the
NPT, MTCR, the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, targeted and
effective export controls, and diplomatic efforts and military
programs to counter and defend against WMD and their means of

Sustaining a Reliable, Effective Nuclear Deterrent

I could not recommend Senate advice and consent to this Treaty if,
notwithstanding the benefits I have just described, the Treaty would
prevent us from maintaining confidence in our own nuclear deterrent.
As the Committee knows well, although the United States does not
depend upon nuclear weapons to the same degree as it did during the
Cold War, nuclear weapons and the deterrence they provide will
continue to be an essential element of our defense strategy for the
foreseeable future. A key conclusion of the President's national
security strategy is that the United States must retain nuclear forces
sufficient to deter any hostile foreign leadership with access to
nuclear forces and to convince it that seeking a nuclear advantage
would be futile. Accordingly, the President has stated that he
considers the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile to
be a supreme national interest of the United States.

Today, we have high confidence in the safety and reliability of the
nuclear weapons stockpile. Our confidence is based on an extensive
database from previous nuclear tests. As time passes and the stockpile
ages, however, we must anticipate that problems will arise.

There are three pillars that provide the foundation maintaining a
safe, reliable, and effective nuclear stockpile: the program for
nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship, the process of annual
certification of the stockpile, and CTBT Safeguards. All are key
elements of the Administration's strategy for assuring the continued
safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile. Let me elaborate
further on each pillar.

Stockpile Stewardship

Under the President's direction, the Department of Energy has
established an aggressive, well-funded program that includes four
interrelated elements that will address the types of problems that
inevitably will arise in an aging stockpile:

-- First, enhanced scientific means for stockpile surveillance to
forewarn us of potential problems in the nuclear weapons stockpile.

-- Second, a vigorous scientific and technical base, including
sophisticated experimental facilities, computer simulations and, most
importantly, highly-trained scientists and engineers at our nuclear
weapon laboratories, to assess the impact of problems, and develop and
certify "fixes."

-- Third, facilities and trained personnel to implement fixes via
warhead repair, refurbishment or re-manufacture.

-- Finally, an assured supply of tritium.

The Administration together with Congress has made important strides
in all four of these areas in recent years. Today, we are confident
that we are fielding the tools we will need in the future to ensure
that the U.S. nuclear stockpile, as it ages, will remain safe and
reliable under CTBT. But it is absolutely essential that we press
ahead with putting all of the elements of the stockpile stewardship
program in place, because, until we do so, as the stockpile ages year
by year, our confidence in it inevitably declines. This is neither new
nor surprising; in fact, it is what we predicted and what then
STRATCOM Commander in Chief Habiger told the SASC in March 1997. What
we are seeing today in the stockpile is essentially what we expected
to see. And we are also seeing that the new tools of the stewardship
program arc coming on-line. But, most importantly, our diagnostic
tests and analysis of the individual warheads in the stockpile
continue to confirm that our nuclear arsenal is healthy, safe, sound,
and reliable.

Annual Certification

We have institutionalized an annual process for certifying nuclear
warhead safety and reliability that serves as an important supplement
to stockpile stewardship. Indeed, for the past three years, the
Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Defense have certified to the
President that we have high confidence in the nuclear stockpile and
that there are no safety or reliability concerns that require an
underground nuclear test. We are now completing this year's assessment
of the health of the nuclear stockpile. As you will hear from our
laboratory experts, there are problems which need to be solved; but
fixes to all of these are in progress, and none require nuclear

Such certifications to the President entail a rigorous and independent
review of the stockpile by experts both inside and outside government.
This process begins with the project officers, those individuals from
the Air Force and the Navy who are responsible for each type of
nuclear weapon in our arsenal. These officers constantly review the
diagnostic work performed by the DoE laboratories and the Services on
actual weapons drawn from the national stockpile. This work is then
shared with Strategic Command's Advisory Group, a panel of
distinguished nuclear weapons experts, which devotes several weeks
each year to a thorough "scrub" of the entire stockpile, drawing upon
AU of the relevant information from the weapons labs and production
plants. The Advisory Group then presents its own independent
evaluation of the data it has received to the Commander in Chief of
Strategic Command, and, in turn, the CINC informs me of its results.
In addition, both my staff and DOE, in consultation with nuclear
weapons labs, also carefully review the stockpile under the auspices
of the joint DOD/DoE Nuclear Weapons Council. Likewise, the three DoE
laboratory directors submit their own evaluations. The joint DoD/DoE
recommendation to the President regarding certification is based on
all of this work. I am confident that this process keeps me informed
about both the health of the stockpile and whatever problems might

CTBT Safeguards Given the critical role that nuclear deterrence
continues to play in national security strategy, we must contemplate
the possibility that stockpile stewardship and annual certification
would uncover a problem in the nuclear stockpile that cannot be fixed
without nuclear testing. We have a hedge for such an event, unlikely
though it may be.

In the event the Secretary of Energy and I, based on the advice of
experts, determine that a high level of confidence in the safety and
reliability of a nuclear weapon critical to our deterrent could no
longer be certified, we would so inform the President and Congress. In
turn, the President has said that he would be prepared, in
consultation with the Congress, to exercise our "supreme national
interests" right of withdrawal under the CTBT in order to conduct
whatever testing might be required.

In order to be ready to implement this safeguard, the Department of
Energy maintains a viable infrastructure and staff at our nuclear test
site in Nevada. We would be able to conduct a nuclear test within
eighteen months to two years of a decision to do so. I will be working
with Secretary Richardson to reduce this interval to the smallest
amount of time practical.

Monitoring and Verifying the CTBT

Is it possible for states to cheat on the CTBT without being detected?
The answer is "yes." We would not be able to detect every evasively
conducted nuclear test and from a national security perspective do not
need to. But, I believe that the U.S. will be able to detect a level
of testing -- the yield and number of tests -- by which a state could
undermine the U.S. nuclear deterrent. This is what we mean by
"effective verification," which is the same standard for compliance
applied to treaties in the 1980's.

Of key concern, if Russia or China were to conduct an occasional --
even one -- clandestine nuclear explosion below our threshold for
detection, this would be a serious political problem. But the military
significance of such tests likely would be low; the intent, in all
probability, would be to validate a fix to a problem which had been
found in one of their existing warheads. Developing new advanced
warheads which potentially could affect the strategic balance would
have great military significance, but this would require a much more
intensive and more, detectable testing program.

CTBT evasion is not easy, it would require significant efforts in
terms of expertise, preparations, and resources. In the end, the
testing party has no guarantees that its preparations or its nuclear
test will escape detection, and possible on-site inspection, despite
its best efforts. In addition, detection capability varies according
to the location of the clandestine test and the evasion measures
employed; a potential evader may not understand the full U.S.
monitoring capability, thus adding to his uncertainty. Further,
detection of a nuclear explosion conducted in violation of the CTBT
would be a very serious matter with significant political
consequences. Hence, the technical challenges, uncertainties, and
potential political costs will have a deterring effect on potential

Under CTBT, I believe the U.S. will have available sufficient
resources to deter or detect, with confidence, the level of
clandestine nuclear testing that could undermine the U.S. nuclear
deterrent and take timely and effective counteraction to redress the
effects of any such testing. These resources include monitoring data
and other information provided by its National Technical Means, the
CTBT international monitoring system and on-site inspections, the
mechanisms established by the Treaty for addressing compliance
concerns and imposition of sanctions, and the U.S. stockpile
stewardship program, the process for annual stockpile recertification,
and CTBT safeguards,


Mr. Chairman, these members of the Committee who were here in 1992
will recall that this Secretary, as a Senator, had considerable doubts
about the wisdom of prematurely halting nuclear testing because at the
time we had many weapons in the stockpile that lacked modem safety
features. But more has changed in the past seven years than simply my
moving my desk across the Potomac. Many of the older weapons in the
stockpile are no longer there; since then the W-33, W-48, and W-79
artillery shells, W-70 (LANCE warhead), B-53 (bomb), and W-56
(Minuteman II warhead), all of which had safety deficiencies have been
retired, easing my concerns. The threat of nuclear and missile
proliferation is far more acute today than it was in 1992, and
accordingly the importance of strengthening non-proliferation has
increased. There was no CTBT in 1992, today there is, and 154 nations
have signed it and 47 have ratified it (including a majority of the 44
whose ratification is necessary to bring the Treaty into force).
Finally, all five nuclear powers were testing in 1992; today, all five
have declared testing moratoriums.

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, in considering this treaty I
believe we face two important issues:

How do we discourage other nations from obtaining nuclear weapons?,

How do we protect the reliability of our existing nuclear

The CTBT offers an answer to both.

If the Senate rejects the treaty, the proliferation of nuclear weapons
is more likely, posing serious challenges to our nonproliferation and
arms reduction goals.

If the Senate lacks confidence in our scientific means of verifying
the reliability of our nuclear weapons, does it follow then that we
should return to a policy of nuclear testing?

If the answer is "yes", it will be difficult to demand that other
nuclear powers or aspirants refrain from engaging in similar conduct.

If more nuclear weapons are developed by more nations, it may well
force the United States to review our own deterrent requirements; if
more nuclear weapons states emerge, it could well cause us to move to
a much more technologically demanding architecture for defense.

I do not suggest that such a proliferation scenario is inevitable. It
is however a possibility that I believe can and should be avoided.

It is for these reasons that I urge the Senate to support the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

(end text)