Modifying Arms Control Agreements, and More from CRS

09.08.15 | 3 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Although it is theoretically possible to do so, the Senate has never imposed changes to an arms control treaty as a condition of ratification, according to a new Congressional Research Service report.

“The Senate has never conditioned consent to an arms control treaty’s ratification on changes in the terms of the agreement,” CRS said.

“In most cases, the conditions adopted during the Senate review were attached to resolutions of ratification and affected only U.S. activities, programs, and policies.” See Arms Control Ratification: Opportunities for Modifying Agreements, CRS Insights, September 2, 2015.

Another new CRS publication looks at the history of renegotiating arms control agreements, in the context of congressional debate over the pending Iran nuclear agreement.

“In the past 60 years, the United States has signed around 20 arms control agreements that affected U.S. weapons programs or military activities. In this period, the Senate has voted against giving its advice and consent to ratification of a treaty only once,” i.e. in the case of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

“It has, on three other occasions, not voted on treaties when it likely would have rejected the treaty. In only one of these three cases did the United States return to the negotiating table and modify the agreement to address the Senate’s concerns.”

In the latter case, which involved the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, “the new negotiations delayed [the Treaty’s] entry into force by nearly 15 years.” See Renegotiating Arms Control Agreements: A Brief Review, CRS Insights, September 2, 2015.

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Three emerging technologies for defense of U.S. Navy surface ships are reviewed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service: shipboard lasers, the electromagnetic railgun, and hypervelocity projectile weapons.

“Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a ‘game changer’ for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles.”

“If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution,” the CRS report said.

“Rarely has the Navy had so many potential new types of surface-ship missile-defense weapons simultaneously available for development and potential deployment.”

However, any or all of the technologies might still prove to be a dead-end, and each still faces significant development hurdles. “Overcoming these challenges will likely require years of additional development work, and ultimate success in overcoming them is not guaranteed.”

The policy decision facing Congress today is therefore which if any of these approaches merits funding, and at what level. See Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, September 2, 2015.

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The United States currently offers safe haven, or “temporary protected status,” to 5,000 Syrian nationals who have sought refuge from the conflict in that country. Altogether, the U.S. offers similar temporary protection to over 300,000 foreign nationals from 12 countries, a newly updated CRS report said. See Temporary Protected Status: Current Immigration Policy and Issues, updated September 2, 2015.

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Other new or updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Long Range Strike Bomber Begins to Emerge, CRS Insights, September 2, 2015

What Does the Latest Court Ruling on NSA Telephone Metadata Program Mean?, CRS Legal Sidebar, September 3, 2015

Is Global Growth Slowing?, CRS Insights, September 2, 2015

Essential Air Service (EAS), September 3, 2015

Across-the-Board Rescissions in Appropriations Acts: Overview and Recent Practices, updated September 2, 2015

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, updated September 2, 2015