September 16, 2010

Chairman Kerry Opening Statement At Business Meeting To Consider the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Resolution Of Advice And Consent To Ratification Of New START

Washington, D.C. – This morning, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) held a business meeting to consider the Committee’s resolution of advice and consent to ratification of New START.

The full text of his opening statement as prepared is below:

Thank you all for coming.

This meeting marks the end of the committee’s long and I believe healthy process of reviewing the New START Treaty. We’re of course here today to consider a resolution of advice and consent to ratification.

The stakes are enormous. By ratifying this treaty, we will limit Russia’s nuclear arsenal. We will regain the ability to inspect their nuclear forces. And we will redouble international support for our nonproliferation efforts. At a moment when the world has imposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear ambitions, this treaty validates American leadership and moves the world an important step closer to reducing the threat from nuclear weapons.

Over the past five months, we have thoroughly scrutinized this treaty and what it means for our nation’s security.

Beginning in late April, we conducted 12 open and classified hearings, featuring more than 20 witnesses.

We had the opportunity to hear from—and to question—the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of State, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, and the director of the Missile Defense Agency.

In our effort to provide a wide range of views, we heard from high-ranking members of the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 administrations.

We also heard from the directors of the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories.

We had a closed hearing with high-ranking intelligence officials, and we questioned the treaty’s negotiators on multiple occasions.

In addition to reviewing the text of the treaty, its protocol, and its three technical annexes, we compiled an extensive written record.

We reviewed a National Intelligence Estimate assessing our ability to monitor compliance with the New START Treaty; a State Department report assessing international compliance with arms control agreements; and a State Department analysis of the New START Treaty’s verifiability.

Responding to requests from several senators, the Executive branch also provided a thorough summary of the New START negotiating record regarding missile defense.

And we received answers to literally hundreds of questions for the record that members had posed to the Obama administration.

Overwhelmingly, the witnesses we heard from supported timely ratification of the New START Treaty. Former officials from both sides of the aisle like Brent Scowcroft, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger, and James Schlesinger testified to the necessity of ratifying this treaty. Some of the strongest endorsements came from America’s military leaders. Admiral Mullen testified that the treaty has “the full support of your uniformed military.” Secretary Gates said that the treaty “protects the security of the American people and our allies.” And General Chilton, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testified that “our nation will be safer and more secure with this Treaty than without it.”

In all, six former secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense, and the chair and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission all urged us to ratify this accord promptly. The last seven generals and admirals to command our nuclear forces delivered the same message. And George Shultz and Sam Nunn have written Senator Lugar and me to emphasize how important this treaty is to our national security.

These supporters come from both sides of the aisle. And I think the broad consensus behind this treaty is a reflection of a process in which we have diligently tried to account for the concerns of our Republican colleagues.

Last month, we postponed this vote for six weeks to give members more time to review the extensive record we had compiled. And early this month, members were encouraged to contact Senator Lugar and me with their comments on a draft resolution that I circulated to get discussion started, knowing that there was room to address Republican concerns. And in discussions with Senators Lugar, Corker and Isakson, I made clear that we welcomed and needed their input. I want to thank all members of the committee for sharing their thoughts and offering suggestions.

I’ve been pleased to work with Senator Lugar to develop a resolution that we can all support. This is a draft that reflects all of our views and I look forward to the Committee adopting it.

This Committee and this Congress have always worked best when we have left politics at the water’s edge. This committee is honoring that tradition today.

We have had five months of investigation, study, and consultation. Now, it is time for us to act. We must act to improve the nuclear security of the United States. We must report New START to the Senate.

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