FILE ID:95081110.POL




(Holum says Clinton decision will aid CTBT talks) (730)

By Jacquelyn S. Porth

USIA Security Affairs Correspondent

Washington -- "A safe, reliable nuclear stockpile is in the supreme

national interest of the United States," Defense Secretary Perry said

August 11 following President Clinton's decision not to test any

nuclear weapons again, not even those of the lowest yield.

Perry stressed that he remains responsible for maintaining a credible

nuclear deterrent force into the future as well as retaining a safe

and reliable nuclear stockpile after a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

(CTBT) is concluded. Negotiators are hoping to conclude a CTBT in


The secretary noted that the president could change his position if

the secretaries of Defense and Energy "determined that there was a

(nuclear weapons) reliability problem that could not be addressed"

through the Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship (SBSS) program.

SBSS is the principal feature of the U.S. nuclear safeguards program,

according to Perry, but new verification techniques will also be

important. Most importantly, he said, a system will be created to

identify a major nuclear weapons system failure should it occur.

The secretary said the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation's top

military leaders, agree with him that "the SBSS system with

safeguards" will protect the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile

sufficiently. The United States is not developing any new nuclear


The president could make a decision "to return to tests," Perry said,

if both Perry and Energy Secretary O'Leary determine that there is "a

reliability problem" that cannot be addressed "through the SBSS

program alone."

Meanwhile, Director John Holum of the U.S. Arms Control and

Disarmament Agency (ACDA) said the president's decision "will help

resolve by far the toughest nut" in the CTBT negotiations in Geneva.

The zero yield decision, he said, "makes the test ban negotiable,

because it treats all countries the same."

Perry laid out the four options he considered before making his

recommendation to the president last week:

-- a zero yield option supplemented by the SBSS;

-- a micro yield option including some minor hydronuclear testing;

-- a low yield option testing up to about one kiloton of explosives;


-- a full yield option.

He said he reached his decision following consultations with the Joint

Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Energy, civilian scientists,

government nuclear laboratories and intelligence experts. Based on

those contacts, the secretary decided that the low yield option would

have limited value if exercised and would not be necessary in order to

monitor the safety and reliability of the shrinking U.S. nuclear

weapons stockpile.

Perry said he selected the SBSS model, which uses computer modeling

and new experimental facilities, because he felt it "would be adequate

for most contingencies." The reliability, and not the safety, of aging

nuclear weapons was the paramount concern, he explained.

In response to questions from reporters following Perry's remarks,

Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy

Ashton Carter said "some components" of the nuclear weapons test site

in Nevada will be kept in a state of readiness so that nuclear tests

can be reactivated "within a short period of time" if the president

decides it is necessary "or if, for some other reason, the (test ban)

treaty were not adhered to or signed by other partners and testing

needed to be resumed."

Carter said U.S. allies, including the French, have been informed

about the U.S. testing decision. The United States has "shared its

thinking" on how best to conduct SBSS activities and how to "retain

safe and reliable arsenals," he said, as other allies conduct their

own deliberations on the testing debate.

Jan Lodal, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, who

joined Perry and Carter at the Pentagon briefing, stressed the

importance "of thorough consultation and explanation of how we came to

our conclusion (in order) to try to bring the other parties around to


Carter said the United States has been consulting with British

officials on the nuclear testing issue. "The British government has

not announced a decision" on this, he said.

The nuclear weapons safeguards program provides the confidence needed

for the United States "to walk down this path," Carter added. He said

the United States hopes all nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states

will join in signing a CTBT.