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"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
Daryl G. Kimball

ACA Director Speaks in Moscow on CTBT

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Prospects for Realizing the Full Potential of the CTBT

Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association
at Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference
Moscow, Russia
September 7, 2012

Distinguished colleagues, it is an honor to address you at this important meeting on the value of and the path forward on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Since the opening for signature of the CTBT nearly sixteen years ago, the vast majority of the world’s nations have signed and ratified the Treaty. They recognize that nuclear testing is a dangerous and unnecessary vestige of the past and understand that the CTBT is a cornerstone of the international security architecture of the 21st century.

The CTBT would reinforce the widely supported de facto global nuclear test moratorium.

By banning all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT can help accomplish the indisputable obligation under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date and to achieve nuclear disarmament.

With the CTBT in force, other states can be assured that the established nuclear-weapon states cannot proof-test new, more sophisticated nuclear warhead designs.

Without the option of nuclear explosive testing, newer nuclear nations cannot perfect smaller, two-stage thermonuclear warheads, which are more easily deliverable via ballistic missiles. Such weapons, if developed, would undermine security in Asia and could lead to a dangerous action-reaction-cycle.

The CTBT also can provide confidence about the peaceful intentions of non-nuclear weapon states, such as Iran. Ratification of the CTBT is a tangible way for states, including Israel, Egypt, and Iran, to contribute to the realization of a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and help de-escalate tensions in the region.

With the CTBT in force, the already robust International Monitoring System will be augmented by the option of on-site inspections, which would improve the detection and deterrence of potential cheating.

Although 183 states have signed the CTBT, the long journey to end testing is not over. For the CTBT to formally enter into force, it must still be ratified by the remaining eight “holdout” states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty.

The United States and China

Ratification by the United States and China is particularly important. By signing the treaty and ending nuclear testing, Washington and Beijing have already taken on most CTBT-related responsibilities, yet their failure to ratify has denied them—and others—the full security benefits of the Treaty.

What are the prospects for U.S. approval of the CTBT twenty years since the last U.S. nuclear test and more than fifteen years since President Bill Clinton signed the treaty?

The task will be very difficult, but is within reach in 2013 or 2014, if President Barack Obama is reelected this November and the Democratic Party retains control of the U.S. Senate. Both of which appear to be likely at the moment, though nothing is ever certain until election day.

To date, Governor Mitt Romney had said nothing about the CTBT and the Republican Party Platform does not mention the CTBT, but it is highly unlikely he would make the CTBT a priority. It is more likely that Romney would, if elected, maintain the U.S. nuclear test moratorium but try to reverse President Obama’s policy of not pursuing new types of nuclear weapons or modifying existing warhead types to give them new military capabilities.

Why do I remain optimistic?  Partly because the successful approval of New START in 2010 shows that even controversial arms control agreements can be approved in a tough political climate when the executive branch devotes sufficient time and high-level attention, when key Senators take the time to ask good questions and seriously consider the facts, and when U.S. military leaders speak up in support of the treaty.

It is self-defeating for the United States to oppose a treaty that prohibits an activity—nuclear testing—for which it has no need or interest in resuming. As Linton Brooks, the former head of the United States’ National Nuclear Security Administration, said in December 2011: "as a practical matter, it is almost certain that the United States will not test again ... in recent years I never met anybody who advocated that we seek authorization to return to testing."

Another reason for optimism is President Barack Obama’s strong support for moving the CTBT forward.

In his April 5 speech in Prague, President Obama declared that his administration “will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” More recently, March of this year, he said: “… my administration will continue to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” And the official Democratic Party platform—out just this week—once again pledges to “work to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

To date, however, the Obama administration has not done enough to mobilize the scientific and technical expertise necessary to debunk spurious assertions against the Treaty and to mobilize support for its reconsideration by the U.S. Senate.

The focus of the administration’s attention over the course its first term has been the negotiation and ratification of New START, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and its implementation, the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the challenges posed by the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.

As a result, the administration’s CTBT effort has not been immediate nor has it been aggressive. President Obama has not yet launched what could be called a systematic and high-level political effort that will be necessary to win the support of key senators for the CTBT.

In a May 10, 2011 address before the Arms Control Association, then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen O. Tauscher said the Obama administration would take the time necessary to brief Senators on key technical and scientific issues that gave some Senators reason for pause during the 1999 debate.

"In our engagement with the Senate,” Tauscher said, “we want to leave aside the politics and explain why the CTBT will enhance our national security. Our case for Treaty ratification consists of three primary arguments: One, the United States no longer needs to conduct nuclear explosive tests, plain and simple. Two, a CTBT that has entered into force will obligate other states not to test and provide a disincentive for states to conduct such tests. And three, we now have a greater ability to catch those who cheat."

Since she spoke there is new evidence in support of the treaty that the Obama administration has at its disposal.

The March 2012 report by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reaffirms that the United States no longer needs and would not benefit from further nuclear testing. The report documents the significant technical advances over the past decade that should resolve the Senate’s concerns about the treaty in 1999.

For instance, the report finds that maintaining an effective nuclear stockpile will require continued diligence, but it does not require nuclear test explosions.

The report also finds that “the status of U.S. national monitoring and the International Monitoring System [IMS] has improved to levels better than predicted in 1999.” The new report confirms that with the combined capabilities of the nearly completed IMS, as well as tens of thousands of civilian seismic monitoring stations, no potential CTBT violator could be confident that a nuclear explosion of military utility would escape detection.

As George Shultz said in 2009, his fellow Republicans “might have been right voting against [the CTBT] some years ago, but they would be right voting for it now, based on these new facts.”

A thoughtful, thorough Senate review of the issues is essential. There is no reason for further delay, but at the same time the process cannot be rushed.

The Senate has not seriously examined these issues in years. In the decade since the Senate last considered the CTBT, 59 Senators have left office; only 41 Senators who debated and voted on the CTBT in 1999 remain. Although treaty ratification has become very political in the United States, it is important to recognize that New START ratification was approved with the support of 13 Republican Senators—10 of whom remain in the Senate today.

To move forward quickly after election day on the CTBT, President Obama will need to appoint a senior, high-level White House coordinator to push the ratification campaign along. For weeks and months, key committees and key Senators will need to be briefed in detail on the new National Academy of Sciences report and the new NIE on nuclear test monitoring issues and the progress of the U.S. stockpile stewardship program.

The Obama administration will also need to more aggressively address misconceptions and misinformation being put forward by hard-line opponents of the CTBT. For instance, some critics erroneously claim the CTBT does not define "nuclear test explosion" and therefore some states such as Russia believe low-yield tests are permitted. The record is clear: Article I of the CTBT bans "any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion" and all signatories of the treaty understand that means zero nuclear test explosions.

While the final outcome will depend on the politics of the moment, it will also depend on the administration’s ability to make a strong case and bring forward the many U.S. military and scientific leaders who support the CTBT and to mobilize key political constituencies in support of the treaty.

In sum, U.S. ratification of the CTBT has been delayed too long but it remains within sight.

The Role of Other Key States

While U.S. action on the treaty is essential for entry into force, other Annex II states must provide leadership rather than simply remain on the sidelines on the CTBT. Indonesia’s ratification of the CTBT in 2011 is an example of how key states can do so.

In particular, it is time for China’s leaders to finally act on the CTBT. On January 19, 2011, President Hu Jintao and President Barack Obama issued a Joint Statement in which they declared: “… both sides support early entry into force of the CTBT.”  Such statements are welcome but insufficient.

Concrete action toward CTBT ratification by China would increase its credibility as a nonproliferation leader and improve the chances that other states will follow suit. Chinese ratification would put pressure on India to approve the treaty and would help constrain the possibility of a future nuclear arms race in Asia in the coming years.

China has provided no plausible reason—technical, political, or military—not to ratify. President Hu should provide the leadership necessary to take China off the list of CTBT holdout states or else provide a timeline for Chinese action on CTBT ratification.

China has and must continue to play a more constructive role to underscore the importance of the global nuclear test moratorium and accession to the CTBT, particularly with North Korea.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan could also advance their own cause and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments to end nuclear testing through the CTBT.

India’s current leaders should recall that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s eloquent and visionary 1988 action plan for disarmament argued for “a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons … to set the stage for negotiations on a comprehensive test-ban treaty.”

India has pledged in various domestic and international contexts to maintain its nuclear test moratorium, which makes it all the more logical for New Delhi’s leaders to reinforce global efforts to detect and deter nuclear testing by others through the CTBT. Those in India who once argued for a resumption of testing have been pushed to the margins and there does not appear to be any major political faction that opposes the CTBT for military or technical reasons.

Pakistan would clearly welcome a legally binding test ban with India and entry into force of the CTBT, and would very likely agree to ratify the treaty if India were to do so.

UN member states that are serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear risk reduction should insist that India and Pakistan sign and ratify the CTBT before they are considered for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and that India should sign and ratify before its possible membership on the Security Council is considered.

The Middle East

With no shortage of conflict and hostility in the Middle East, ratification by Israel, Egypt and Iran would reduce nuclear weapons-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary for the realization of a Middle East Zone free of Nuclear and other Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Israel’s ratification of the CTBT would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit. Israel’s stated concerns about the CTBT at this point have to do with the procedures for on-site inspections, but in reality Israel is unwilling to ratify unless other states in the region also indicate they will do so.

Iran was at one time an active participant in the CTBT negotiations and on September 24, 1996 it signed the treaty. Today, Iranian ratification would help reduce concerns that its nuclear program could be used to develop and deploy deliverable nuclear warheads. Iranian ratification could help reinforce the credibility of the Supreme Leader’s fatwa against nuclear weapons and address urgent concerns that Iran may race to build nuclear weapons.

Continued failure by Iran to ratify the CTBT raises further questions about the nature of its sensitive nuclear activities, which remain under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The member states of the Non-Aligned Movement need to play a stronger leadership role in pressing Iran, the incoming chair of the NAM, to ratify the CTBT.

North Korea

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests have undermined Asian security and further isolated the country. A third nuclear test explosion would worsen an already tense situation on the Korean peninsula and make it far more difficult for the DPRK to be accepted back into the global community of nations.

The leaders of the DPRK have an opportunity to take a new approach in the years ahead by following through on their February 29 pledge to observe a moratorium on nuclear test explosions as a confidence-building measure and resume action-for-action process for denuclearization and normalization. The Russian Federation and China can play an especially important role in pointing out the benefits of such an approach.

Reinforcing the Test Ban

There are other actions that should be pursued that would reinforce the de facto test moratorium and accelerate CTBT entry into force. Specifically:

  1. Responsible states should provide in full and without delay assessed financial contributions to the CTBTO, fully assist with the completion of the IMS networks, and continuously and without interruption transmit data from the monitoring stations. This will ensure the most robust capabilities to detect and deter clandestine nuclear test explosions. States should also recognize that the Provisional Technical Secretariat to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission is–for all practical purposes–no longer “provisional.” The International Monitoring System and International Data Center are now an essential part of today’s 21st century international security architecture that enables all states to detect and deter nuclear tests;
  2. In order to further reinforce the de facto global taboo against nuclear testing and deter any state from considering nuclear test explosions in the future, the UN Security Council should discuss and outline the penalties that could be imposed in the event that any state breaks this taboo;
  3. Russia and China could join the United States and formally declare they will not pursue new types of nuclear weapons or modify weapons in ways that create new military capabilities. Such policies would reinforce the effect of the CTBT on halting the qualitative improvement of nuclear arsenals;
  4. Nuclear armed states—particularly Russia, China, and the United States—should halt activities at the former sites of nuclear test explosions that might raise concerns about compliance with the CTBT and begin serious technical discussions on confidence building measures that could be undertaken in advance of CTBT entry into force to reinforce the moratorium and the CTBT itself.

None of these steps are simple nor are they easy. Each requires that leaders from key states think creatively and seize the initiative to close the door on nuclear testing forever.

Thank you for your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Prepared Remarks by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association at Moscow Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference in Moscow, Russia on September 6, 2012.

The August 2012 IAEA Report on Iran: An Initial Assessment

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Note: correction on Fordow centrifuge totals (3pm, Aug. 30)

By Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball

The IAEA’s latest quarterly report on Iran, now in circulation, finds that Tehran has installed more machines for uranium enrichment in its Fordow underground facility, but has not started to use them. This means that Iran has not significantly increased its rate of enrichment at this facility since the IAEA's previous report from May.

Moreover, although Iran has enriched additional uranium to almost 20%--a level that could be more quickly turned into weapons material--Tehran has converted much of this material to reactor fuel. Thus Iran’s available stockpile of 20% enriched uranium (91 kg) is essentially unchanged from May.

Iran is still continuing enrichment at two sites and seeking to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Although, the August IAEA report is another troubling reminder of Iran's proliferation potential, it is not a “game-changer” in terms of Tehran’s capability to build a nuclear arsenal if it were to decide to do so.

As White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said August 24, “there is still time and space” for diplomatic efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff. But it is also clear that new and more energetic diplomacy is needed to resolve the most urgent proliferation risks posed by Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Here is our brief summary of key takeaways from the new IAEA report:

Continue reading...

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The IAEA’s latest quarterly report on Iran, now in circulation, finds that Tehran has installed more machines for uranium enrichment in its Fordow underground facility, but has not started to use them. This means that Iran has not significantly increased its rate of enrichment at this facility since the IAEA's previous report from May.

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Bid to Craft Arms Trade Treaty Stalls

Farrah Zughni and Daryl G. Kimball

A month-long UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the first-ever treaty to regulate the international arms trade failed to reach consensus on a final document by its July 27 deadline as a handful of key countries, including the United States, said they needed additional time to resolve their concerns with the proposed draft of the pact.

The meeting, which brought together more than 190 countries at the United Nations July 2-27, overcame procedural difficulties as well as numerous conflicting positions on substance and appeared to be close to agreement on a 12-page treaty text that was circulated by conference president Roberto García Moritán on July 26. The general aim of an arms trade treaty (ATT) is to require that all states put in place national regulations on international arms transfers, establish common international standards for approving the transfers, and mandate regular reporting (see box).

The apparent momentum for an agreement was halted by the unexpected announcement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman of unresolved U.S. objections to the July 26 draft treaty text. Addressing the plenary meeting on July 27, Countryman said he did not see problems with the document’s general framework but that he still had concerns about a few aspects of the text.

The United States “wishes to see all progress preserved for a successful treaty, but I have to say that my capital does not have the time that is needed to address these issues; we need to not take a step backward but to get this right,” Countryman told the conference.

Shortly after Countryman spoke, Russia and a handful of other delegations joined the call for more time to negotiate a final text. In a July 27 story, the Associated Press quoted a Western diplomat as saying the United States had “derailed” the process and that it was likely that no further action would be taken on the treaty until after the U.S. elections in November.

Many states expressed disappointment with the outcome, particularly because the July 26 draft negotiated by the conference had incorporated major U.S. proposals and avoided U.S. negotiating “redlines,” according to several diplomats.

“We came to New York to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today. We believe we were very close to reaching our goals,” said the Mexican delegation in a written statement on July 27 on behalf of more than 90 countries, including major arms exporters France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

“Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text…put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community,” the governments’ statement said.

Some major human rights organizations blamed the United States for the outcome. “This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a July 27 statement. “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough,” she said.

Key Elements of the Proposed ATT

The July 26 draft text of an arms trade treaty (ATT) would require all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized, and require annual reporting of such transfers. In particular, the July 26 ATT text would

• require that states “shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list” and “shall designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the international transfer of conventional arms.” (Currently only 90 countries have international arms transfer regulations.)

• prohibit arms transfers to states if the transfer would violate “obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes;” other “relevant international obligations;” or would be “for the purpose of facilitating the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, [or] war crimes constituting grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions”;

• prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” “a serious violation of international human rights law,” or an act of terrorism;

• require that states “shall establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition for conventional arms under the scope” of an ATT and shall apply the authorization criteria and prohibitions established by the treaty prior to authorizing any export of ammunition;

• require that each state “shall take the appropriate measures, within its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms under the scope” of an ATT; and

• enter into force when 65 states ratify the treaty.

Tough Negotiations

Before and during the July conference, it was not clear whether it would be possible for so many states to achieve consensus on a treaty in such a short time. The start of the conference’s work was delayed for two days when a group of countries, led by Egypt, proposed that the Palestinian Authority be granted voting status at the conference. A walkout by some states that oppose voting status for the Palestinians was avoided when a compromise was forged that granted the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican observer status.

Through long hours of parallel working sessions and informal consultations, the diplomats offered divergent perspectives and struggled to reach agreement on core elements of the treaty, including its scope and the criteria for evaluating arms transfers. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) By the last week, bottom-line positions became more apparent, and García Moritán presented a consolidated draft text on July 24. A revised version followed on July 26, just one day before the scheduled close of negotiations.

Some states pushed for an ATT with a relatively broad scope, while others sought a narrower one. In the end, the states could agree only that the draft treaty text should cover seven categories derived from the existing UN Register of Conventional Arms—battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers—plus small arms and light weapons.

Most states argued that the treaty’s scope should include transfers of ammunition, but some, including the United States, resisted its inclusion in the scope section of the treaty. The July 26 text struck a compromise that would obligate states-parties to regulate only the export of ammunition.

There also were competing proposals on how the treaty should address arms transfers that contribute to human rights abuses. The July 26 treaty text contains a compromise formula that would prohibit an arms transfer if the state determines there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer could be used to “commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” “a serious violation of international human rights law,” or an act of terrorism.

Toward the end of the conference, treaty supporters were most concerned about the possibility that countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, and Syria—all of which had voiced strong opposition to central components of the agreement—might decide to block consensus. Prior to Countryman’s statement, however, no delegation had publicly declared that consensus at the conference would not be possible.

Once it became clear that adoption of a final treaty text was out of the question, the conference approved a report for the UN General Assembly relaying the meeting outcome.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement July 27 calling the forum’s “inability” to conclude its work a “setback.”

“There is already considerable common ground and states can build on the hard work that has been done during these negotiations,” he said.

U.S. Concerns

In his July 27 remarks, Countryman listed a number of specific issues that the U.S. delegation found problematic in the July 26 text. None of the points he raised, however, disputed the core treaty elements, such as the scope, criteria for determining whether an arms transfer should be authorized, and prohibitions on certain transfers.

Countryman criticized language in Article 5 that says the treaty “shall not be cited as grounds for voiding contractual obligations under defence cooperation agreements.” Diplomatic sources say the provision was included at the insistence of India over the objections of many states. Countryman argued that the language was “so broad that it threatened to undermine the treaty’s goals” of setting the highest common standards to regulate the international arms trade. Countryman said a provision of Article 3 stipulating that a state-party shall not authorize a conventional arms transfer that would “violate its relevant international obligations” was too ambiguous. He also said that Article 9, which calls on importing and exporting states to “cooperate and exchange information” with “transit and transshipment” states, would need to be rewritten in a manner that is “consistent with international law.” Countryman did not elaborate on the U.S. objection or how it could be addressed.

Some aspects of Countryman’s critique echoed concerns outlined by a group of 51 U.S. senators in a July 26 letter to President Barack Obama. Referring to the first consolidated treaty text of July 24, the senators said the draft treaty text’s requirements for national regulations on international transfers, including those that transited through national territory, and for national reporting of arms transfers potentially infringe on individual gun-ownership rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The lawmakers, including eight Democrats, said they “will oppose the ratification” of any ATT that does not “explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful activities associated with firearms.”

In a July 31 press briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell underscored that, “from our perspective, this treaty and this text, and indeed, in all of the rounds of the text that we saw, in no way would infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

The July 26 text explicitly recognizes “the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional systems.”

Next Steps Unclear

Most ATT supporters said the July conference’s failure has postponed but will ultimately not prevent the treaty’s adoption. “An ATT is coming. It did not happen on [July 27], but it is coming soon,” said Jo Adamson, British permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, in a July 31 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The July 27 multicountry statement affirmed its signers’ determination “to secure” an ATT “as soon as possible.”

The French government said in an Aug. 1 statement, “France is not resigned to this situation. The UN General Assembly…must follow up on this process. The efforts made in recent weeks were not in vain. The text of July 26 must be considered the basis for negotiations whose accomplishments must be preserved.” France said that “this text is not perfect.… [W]e would have liked to see more robust, clearer language on munitions and technologies.”

In an Aug. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Egyptian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil said the draft text was “a work in progress” that “provides ample material for proceeding further.”

“Any negotiations for a future arms trade treaty,” Khalil wrote, “must take place within a multilateral framework and under the auspices of the United Nations…. It is important to keep in mind that the value of an ATT depends on its universal adherence including from major arms exporters and importers.”

According to diplomatic sources, treaty backers are considering their options ahead of the next session of the UN General Assembly, which convenes in September. Unlike the ATT diplomatic conference, the UN General Assembly does not operate by consensus, and resolutions can be approved with the support of a two-thirds majority of UN member states.

The United States has maintained that it would accept an ATT only if it were adopted on the basis of consensus. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a July 27 written statement that the United States did not support the adoption of an ATT in the General Assembly. Rather, Nuland said, the U.S. government favors “a second round of negotiations, conducted on the basis of consensus” on a treaty “next year.” At the July 31 briefing, Ventrell acknowledged that, with respect to getting a commitment to another round of ATT negotiations, “We’re not there yet.”

A month-long UN diplomatic conference to negotiate the first-ever treaty to regulate the international arms trade failed to reach consensus on a final document by its July 27 deadline as a handful of key countries, including the United States, said they needed additional time to resolve their concerns with the proposed draft of the pact.

Next Steps for the Arms Trade Treaty

Daryl G. Kimball

The United States has relatively robust regulations governing international transfers of conventional arms and ammunition, but many other countries have weak or ineffective laws and policies, if they have any at all. In the absence of common international standards and national export controls, arms suppliers and brokers exploit the gaps for profit, allowing arms and ammunition to flow to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups.

That can and must change. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman was on target when he said in April that there must be “a new sense of responsibility upon every member of the United Nations that you cannot simply export and forget.”

With U.S. support, UN member states agreed to convene July 2-27 for a diplomatic conference to conclude a global arms trade treaty (ATT) to require national regulations and commonsense standards for arms transfers. Overcoming considerable challenges, the negotiators came very close, but not close enough, to consensus.

After many days and long nights of talks, diplomats from arms-exporting and -importing countries were coalescing around a draft 12-page agreement issued July 26. Most diplomats expected that, with some minor adjustments, a final text would be adopted on the final day.

Hopes were dashed when the United States announced it still had concerns and needed more time to address them. The U.S. move provided cover for Russia and a few others to join the call for delay. Without the active support of the world’s largest arms producer and exporter—$31 billion in U.S. foreign military sales in fiscal year 2011 and $63 billion so far in 2012—the conference could not reach agreement.

The decision by Washington to pull back from the diplomatic finish line surprised many, especially given that the U.S. delegation succeeded in pressing other countries to support its key positions and avoid U.S. redlines. In addition, none of the remaining concerns cited by the U.S. team are core issues.

More than 90 countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, declared in a statement, “We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today. Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text…put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community.”

The July 26 draft treaty text would prohibit arms transfers to states for the purpose of facilitating the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity and obligate states not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is an “overriding risk” that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations. A compromise formula would require that states establish national export regulations that guard against the irresponsible export of ammunition.

Clearly, the July 26 draft is imperfect. For instance, the list of conventional weapons should be more comprehensive; the requirements for regulating arms dealers should be stronger; the prohibitions on transfers that could lead to human rights abuses should be strengthened; and the reporting requirements should be more robust. Nevertheless, the proposed treaty would help reduce enormous human suffering caused by irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering.

The momentum toward a sound ATT must not be lost. The majority of states are determined to move the discussion to the UN General Assembly this fall and to secure an effective treaty as soon as possible. Doing so will not be easy and will require stronger leadership.

The failure of the Obama administration to muster the political will to close the deal on a sound ATT has undermined U.S. credibility on the issue. With the General Assembly due to take up the ATT issue this fall, Washington may have also lost much of its influence and its veto power. Unlike the ATT conference, which required consensus, the General Assembly can adopt resolutions by a two-thirds majority.

With small adjustments to the July 26 text, key ATT backers may move to win UN endorsement of the treaty or, at the very least, reconvene another diplomatic conference designed to quickly adopt a final treaty. The goal must be to prevent key states from once again standing in the way of a strong ATT as well as to conclude an agreement that will be signed by United States, along with other key arms suppliers and buyers.

An ATT has the potential to fill a huge gap in the international security architecture and help protect innocent civilians. The treaty cannot stop all irresponsible and illicit arms transfers, but it can make it substantially more difficult and more expensive for weapons buyers and suppliers to flout commonsense standards.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton argued in a July speech, the United States “can directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence.” To translate those words into action, Washington must help, not hinder, the conclusion of an effective ATT.

The United States has relatively robust regulations governing international transfers of conventional arms and ammunition, but many other countries have weak or ineffective laws and policies, if they have any at all. In the absence of common international standards and national export controls, arms suppliers and brokers exploit the gaps for profit, allowing arms and ammunition to flow to unscrupulous regimes, criminals, illegal militias, and terrorist groups.

United States, Others Miss Chance on Global Arms Trade Treaty

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Arms Control Experts Urge Key Leaders to Maintain Momentum

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2012, 6:45pm EST

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the start of a UN process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, 192 states came close to agreement on a treaty to require better regulation of the global arms trade and to set common-sense standards for arms transfers.

However, the United States, followed by Russia, announced earlier today that a few remaining issues (none of which are core treaty issues) must be clarified and that there is not enough time to resolve them.

"President Obama should have--but did not--provide the leadership necessary to close the deal on the arms trade treaty and help reduce human suffering caused irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering," said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Although the U.S. delegation had succeeded in inserting all of its preferred formulations in the treaty text and avoided all "red lines," the conference was told this morning that several issues must be further clarified or language must be further adjusted.

"The important support and momentum for a sound arms trade treaty must not be lost," said Kimball.

A statement read by Mexico on behalf of a group of over 90 countries--including France, Germany, and the U.K.--at the close of the conference declared: "We came to New York to achieve a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty. We had expected to adopt such a draft Treaty today. We believe we were very close to reaching our goals."

"Compromises have had to be made, but overall the text you put forward yesterday has the overwhelming support of the international community as a base for carrying forward our work," the governments' statement read. "We believed that this would have been possible with extra work today and only very reluctantly now see that this is not possible," they declared.

The group called upon the conference president, Ambassador Moritan of Argentina, "to report to the General Assembly on the progress we have made, so that we can finalize our work. We are determined to secure an Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible."

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require regular reporting of such transfers, which would help improve transparency and accountability. It has the potential to close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering. The latest treaty text also recognized "the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively in their territory …."

The most recent treaty text:

  • would have required that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • included a prohibition on arms transfers to states for the purpose of facilitating the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity;
  • would have obligated states not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.

"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to work with the large group supporters, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to conclude a sound agreement this year," Kimball urged.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the start of a UN process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, 192 states came close to agreement on a treaty to require better regulation of the global nuclear arms trade and to set common-sense standards for arms transfers.

Country Resources:

New Arms Trade Treaty Within Reach

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Security Experts Urge President Obama to Lead, Not Delay

For Immediate Release: July 27, 2012, 11:30am EST

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, 202-463-8270 ext. 117

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the UN launched a process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, states are coalescing around a final treaty text.

However, it appears that the United States is balking over a few remaining issues (none of which are core treaty issues) that it says must be clarified and that the U.S. delegation says the decision-makers in Washington may not have time to help resolve.

"President Obama must lead and not further delay this important and long-running process to help reduce human suffering as a result of irresponsible international arms transfers and arms brokering," said Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Although the U.S. delegation has succeeded in inserting all of its preferred formulations in the treaty text, the conference was told this morning that several issues must be further clarified or language must be further adjusted.

"Indeed, the Arms Trade Treaty text issued Thursday evening can and should be adjusted today to close loopholes and clarify its protections against illicit arms transfers of all kinds, but there is tremendous momentum to conclude a sound text now. Today is the day to resolve remaining issues and questions," said Kimball.

"The conclusion of a sound Arms Trade Treaty would represent an important step forward for U.S. security and international security that President Obama and the U.S. Congress should embrace," Kimball said.

At its core, the treaty would establish common international standards that must be met before arms transfers are authorized. It would require regular reporting of such transfers, which would help improve transparency and accountability. It has the potential to close the gaps in the current international system by requiring countries to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons and ammunition in and out of their borders and for arms brokering. The current treaty text also recognizes "the sovereign right and responsibility of any State to regulate and control transfers of conventional arms that take place exclusively in their territory …."

The most recent treaty text:

  • would require that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • includes a prohibition on arms transfers to states for the purpose of facilitating the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity;
  • obligates states not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is an "overriding risk" that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.
"We urge the United States and other arms exporters and importers, including China, Russia, the U.K., and India, to work with other states, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility needed to reach a sound agreement by tonight's deadline," Kimball urged.


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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(United Nations, New York) Nearly a year after the UN launched a process to negotiate a new global arms trade treaty, states are coalescing around a final treaty text.

Letter Calls on Obama to Close Loopholes and Support Arms Trade Treaty

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Humanitarian, Arms Control Groups Urge President Obama to Close Loopholes; Support Effective Arms Trade Treaty

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2012

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Frank Jannuzi, Head of D.C. Office, Amnesty International USA, 202-675-8585

(Washington and New York) Major U.S. humanitarian and arms control organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, Arms Control Association, and United to Prevent Genocide, are pressing President Barack Obama to work with other countries close the remaining loopholes in text of the Arms Trade Treaty now under negotiation.

In a letter sent earlier today to the White House, the leaders wrote: "While the July 24 treaty text that has emerged from this month's negotiation falls short in several areas, we believe that with some specific fixes, it still represents an important opportunity to reduce the impact of the illicit global arms trade and save lives, and it should be supported by the United States."

A robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty would establish international standards would ban all arms transfers that could facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, and serious war crimes. It will also close the gaps in the current international system of laws by requiring countries to adopt strong laws that would govern the flow of weapons in and out of their borders.

"The end is in sight for a global arms trade treaty but its success depends on the United States," said Scott Stedjan, senior policy advisor with Oxfam America. "Washington needs to back a strong text to prevent the negotiations from collapsing."

"We urge the United States and other arms exporters to work with others, especially those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility to reach an agreement by Friday's deadline," said Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Control Arms Association.

"As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined in remarks this week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention," stated the letter. "As she said, we can 'directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence.'"

The letter encourages President Obama and the U.S. negotiating team to address the following issues:

  • ensure that the treaty requires that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • includes a prohibition on arms transfers to states that they know may be used to commit or facilitate acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. This would be consistent with the vision outlined in Secretary Clinton's remarks this week;
  • ensure that states are obligated not to transfer weapons if they determine there is a substantial risk that the transfer will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law;
  • be adjusted to ensure that it addresses all types of arms transfers, not just "exports," and
  • be adjusted so that it does not allow states to exempt arms sales under previous contracts or defense cooperation agreements that pose a serious risk of facilitating violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or international arms embargoes or otherwise violate the object and purpose of the treaty.

The call to action comes one day before negotiations conclude on July 27.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


July 26, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

RE: Arms Trade Treaty text under consideration

Dear Mr. President,

With one day left to conclude the first ever global Arms Trade Treaty, we write to urge you and your administration to close the remaining loopholes in the treaty text now under negotiation and to urge other key states to support the treaty, which can help reduce the substantial harm inflicted by the illicit arms trade.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined in remarks this week at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, there must be a new emphasis on prevention. As she said, we can "directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence."

While the July 24 treaty text that has emerged from this month's negotiation falls short in several areas, we believe that with some specific fixes, it still represents an important opportunity to reduce the impact of the illicit global arms trade and save lives, and it should be supported by the United States.

In the final hours of these ATT negotiations, we respectfully encourage you and your negotiating team to address these very important issues in the treaty text:

  • retains a clear prohibition on arms transfers for the purpose of facilitating -- or with the knowledge that those items will be used in -- the commission of acts of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. This would be consistent with the policy outlined by Secretary Clinton this week;
  • ensures that states are obligated not to authorize arms transfers if they determine there is a substantial risk that the items will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law;
  • requires that states establish national import and export regulations that guard against circumvention of the treaty through irresponsible export of ammunition;
  • be adjusted to ensure that it addresses all types of arms transfers, not just "exports," and
  • be adjusted so that it does not allow states to exempt arms sales under previous contracts or defense cooperation agreements that may violate the object and purpose of the treaty.

With these points in mind, we encourage you to use your influence to bring other significant countries on board in order to open the way for the treaty's approval and opening for signature.

Thanks for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Eric Sapp,
Executive Director,
American Values Network

Suzanne Nossel,
Executive Director,
Amnesty International USA

Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director,
Arms Control Association

Sarah Holewinski,
Executive Director,
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

John Isaacs,
Executive Director,
Council for a Livable World

Don Krauss,
Chief Executive Officer,
GlobalSolutions.org

Raymond C. Offenheiser,
President,
Oxfam America

Bama Athreya,
Executive Director,
United to End Genocide

 

Description: 

(Washington and New York) Major U.S. humanitarian and arms control organizations, including Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, Arms Control Association, and United to Prevent Genocide, are pressing President Barack Obama to work with other countries close the remaining loopholes in text of the Arms Trade Treaty now under negotiation.

Arms Treaty Text Emerges from UN Talks

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Arms Control Group Says Good Agreement Within Sight

For Immediate Release: July 24, 2012

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, ACA (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the first consolidated draft text of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) emerged from arduous negotiations at the United Nations. Governments have just three days to narrow any remaining differences before the conference concludes on July 27.

"The text that has emerged contains several loopholes that should be closed to improve the treaty, but on the whole the document now under consideration provides a solid basis for agreement by all responsible states. With further work in the remaining hours, a good Arms Trade Treaty is within sight," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Arms Control Association.

"We urge the major supplier states to work with others, including those most affected by violence fueled by illicit arms dealing, to provide the leadership and flexibility to close the gaps in their respective positions and to reach agreement by Friday's deadline," said Kimball.

The July 24 treaty text issued today would require all states to establish national regulations on conventional arms transfers and brokering and require that states not authorize transfers that would violate arms embargoes, that would facilitate acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. The treaty draft now before the negotiators would also require states to regulate munitions so that their transfer will not circumvent the goals of the treaty.


The treaty text would also require states to evaluate whether arms transfers would be used to violate humanitarian law, international human rights law, be used by terrorists or organized crime, and if there is a substantial risk the transfer would do so, the treaty would oblige states not to authorize the transfer.

"The current text, however, should clarify that the treaty pertains to all types of arms 'transfers' (not simply arms exports) and clarify that the conventional weapons categories listed in the 'scope' section is illustrative and not exhaustive. The treaty should not, as the text currently suggests, allow multi-year weapons contracts to continue even if states know the weapons will be used for war crimes," Kimball urged. 

"With these adjustments, the Arms Trade Treaty can make a substantial difference in reducing the harm created by the illicit arms trade and it deserves the Obama administration's support," Kimball suggested.

Today, only 90 countries report having basic regulations on the international transfer of small arms and light weapons. Only 56 countries control arms brokers and only 25 have criminal penalties associated with illicit brokering. Worldwide, at least 400,000 people are killed by illegal small arms and light weapons each year, according to the U.K. government.

"The July 24 treaty text goes a long way toward meeting the United States' concerns on key issues, including ammunition and the criteria that states must evaluate before authorizing conventional arms transfers," Kimball said.

As Secretary of State Clinton outlined in remarks today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial on preventing the mass slaughter of civilians, the United States and others must put a new emphasis on prevention. As she said we can "directly pressure those who organize atrocities and cut off the resources they need to continue their violence."

"An effective Arms Trade Treaty would help fill a gap in the international security architecture and help protect innocent civilians. The treaty can't stop all illicit arms transfers and won't stop all civilian deaths in conflict, but it can substantially reduce the human toll by making it harder and more expensive for weapons buyers and suppliers to flout common sense standards," Kimball argued.

"If by week's end, a few states try to block consensus agreement on a robust Arms Trade Treaty, we would urge the vast majority of states who do support the ATT to seek endorsement by the UN General Assembly and to open the treaty for signature," Kimball suggested.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Description: 

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the first consolidated draft text of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) emerged from arduous negotiations at the United Nations. Governments have just three days to narrow any remaining differences before the conference concludes on July 27.

Nuclear and Missile Systems We Can't Afford, Don't Need

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Volume 3, Issue 12, July 18, 2012

If the Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the booming federal deficit, they must work together to scale back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and unnecessary spending on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.

It has been more than two decades since the end of the Cold War, yet the United States maintains--and is poised to rebuild--a costly strategic nuclear triad that is sized to launch far more nuclear weapons than necessary to deter nuclear attack against the U.S. or its allies.

Today, the United States deploys some 1,737 strategic nuclear warheads, while Russia deploys some 1,492 strategic nuclear warheads. Each side has thousands more warheads in reserve.

Other than Russia, the only potential adversary with a long-range nuclear capability is China, which has no more than 40-50 warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles. The United States' has more than 30 times as many. Just one U.S. nuclear-armed submarine--loaded with 24 missiles, each armed with four 455-kiloton warheads--could kill millions.

As the Pentagon's new defense strategy correctly asserts, "It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force...."

However, current plans call for 12 new nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines to carry more than 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads into the 2070s, at a total cost of almost $350 billion.

The Air Force is seeking a new, nuclear-armed strategic bomber that would cost at least $68 billion, as well as a new fleet of land-based ballistic missiles. Modernization and operation of the United States' 450 Minuteman III land-based ballistic missiles would cost billions more.

As, then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright explained last year, "... we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don't have the money to do it."

In a time of budget austerity, these ambitious and expensive schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems can and must be scaled back in manageable, cost-effective way.

Likewise, U.S. ballistic missile interceptor programs should be cost-effective, proven through real-world testing, and sized to address threats that actually exist. The fiscal year 2013 budget request would already provide $9.7 billion for all ballistic missile defense programs, and the administration projects spend another  $47.4 billion for these programs from 2013 to 2017.

The administration's missile defense budget includes $903 million for operating 30 ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles in Alaska and California to deal with a potential limited limited, long-range missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, neither of which have successfully tested such missiles. The system failed in their last two intercept tests, in January and December 2010. The MDA plans to have 52 GBI missiles by 2017.

Despite the GBI program's severe shortcomings and high-costs, some would have the taxpayer spend even more on the program than the administration has requested.

There are four principal ways in which the president and the Congress can trim unnecessary strategic nuclear force modernization programs and trim excess spending from the unproven Ground-Based Mid-Course strategic missile interceptor program--and still retain more than enough megatonnage to deter nuclear attack by any current or future adversary.

1. Rightsize the Strategic Nuclear Sub Fleet

The first step is to reevaluate and reduce the size of the future nuclear-armed strategic submarine force. In January 2012, the Pentagon said it would delay procurement of the proposed Ohio-class replacement nuclear-armed submarine (SSBNX) by two years, starting in 2031 not 2029, which could save some $6-7 billion in the next ten years.

However, without a reduction in the size of the force, the overall cost of the program will remain the same, and take resources away from the Navy's other priority shipbuilding projects. The Pentagon has requested $565 billion for the SSBNX program for fiscal 2013.

By reducing the Trident nuclear-armed sub fleet from 14 to 8 or fewer boats and building no more than 8 new nuclear-armed subs, the United States could save roughly $27 billion over 10 years, and $120 billion over the 50-year lifespan of the program.

Furthermore, by changing prompt launch requirements developed during the Cold War and increasing the number of missile tubes and warhead loadings on each submarine, the Navy could still deploy the same number of strategic nuclear warheads at sea on a smaller, 8 sub fleet, as currently planned under the New START treaty (about 1,000).

2. Postpone Work on a New Strategic Bomber

Second, work on a new strategic bomber should be delayed. There is no rush to field a fleet of new bombers given the Pentagon's plan to retain 60 of its existing nuclear-capable, long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers into the 2040s, which will already cost approximately $4 billion to refurbish over the next 4 years. Delaying work on the new bomber program would save $18 billion over the next decade and approximately $292 million in fiscal year 2013 alone, according to the Pentagon.

3. Trim the Cold War ICBM Force

For additional savings, the Pentagon should reduce its land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force from 420 to 300 by cutting one squadron at each of the three Air Force bases where such missiles are deployed and foregoing a follow-on missile program to replace the existing force. This move would save approximately $360 million in operations and maintenance costs in fiscal 2013 alone and far more in future years.

Prudent U.S. strategic nuclear force reductions could also induce Russia to further reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal, which is already 200 warheads fewer than the United States, and prompt Moscow to delay or cancel some of its own costly plans for modernizing its strategic nuclear delivery systems.

4. Don't Spend More Taxpayer Money for Ground-Based Mid-Course Missile Interceptors That Don't Work

The United States already has two GMD sites on the west coast, with 30 interceptors deployed in California and Alaska, to counter a potential, limited long-range ballistic missile volley from a rogue state. Neither Iran nor North Korea has yet deployed long-range missiles that could reach the United States.

The administration's budget request also includes $1.5 billion for the European Phased Adaptive Approach, which involves the SM-3 interceptor system to handle potential attacks involving short- and medium-range missiles from Iran. Iran does have such missiles.

Spending even more for the GBI system--which has not had a successful intercept test since 2008; has had two flight test failures in 2010; and cannot yet deal with decoys--is not prudent. Because the GBI cannot be relied upon to work in real-world conditions and because Iran and North Korea has not successfully tested long-range missiles, pouring more money into the program doesn't improve U.S. national security and drains resources from other, higher priority programs.

More Security for Less Money

Fresh thinking is in order. Programs that address low-priority threats must be scaled back to make room for more pressing national priorities and reduce the deficit. Smart reductions in spending on unnecessary new nuclear weapons systems would enhance U.S. security.--DARYL G. KIMBALL

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

Description: 

If the Congress and the White House are serious about reducing the booming federal deficit, they must work together to scale back previous schemes for a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons delivery systems and unnecessary spending on a ground-based missile defense system that doesn't work for a threat that doesn't exist.

Country Resources:

The Arms Trade Treaty and the NRA's Misleading Rhetoric

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Volume 3, Issue 11, July 11, 2012

The ongoing conflict in Syria-like recent wars in Burma, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Sierra Leone-underscores the urgent need for common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and ammunition, as well as legally-binding requirements for all states to review exports and imports--particularly for arms transfers that could lead to human rights abuses or violate international arms embargoes.

While the United States and a few other countries have relatively tough regulations governing the trade of weapons, many countries have weak or ineffective regulations, if they have any at all.

The patchwork of national laws, combined with the absence of clear international standards for arms transfers, increases the availability of weapons in conflict zones. Irresponsible arms suppliers and brokers can exploit these conditions to sell weapons to unscrupulous governments, criminals, and insurgents, including those fighting U.S. troops.

For example, in 2010 Italian authorities revealed that the Italy-based smuggling ring of Alessandro Bon sent multiple shipments of military sniper scopes and other military goods via a Romanian front company through Dubai to Iran in violation of a UN arms embargo. This equipment, in turn, found its way into the hands of insurgents fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In response to this global problem, U.S. diplomats and representatives from some 190 countries are meeting at the United Nations to hammer out a legally-binding, global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by July 27. The treaty would address all types of conventional weapons transfers, from naval ships and attack helicopters to small arms and light weapons.

The Arms Trade Treaty won't stop all illicit international arms transfers, but it is a common sense effort that can improve U.S. and global security because it can help reduce irresponsible international arms transfers and hold arms suppliers more accountable for their actions.

Second Amendment Nonsense

Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and some of its allies are engaging in a misleading lobbying effort alleging that the still-to-be-negotiated treaty will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. It won't.

The ATT will only apply to international export, import, and transfer of conventional weapons. Nevertheless, the NRA's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre spoke today before a nearly empty hall at the UN and tried to argue that the treaty will regulate or even deny domestic gun-ownership by U.S. citizens and undermine the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This follows months of misleading lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. A statement posted in March on the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Web site characterized attempts to draft the ATT as "insidious efforts to use supranational authority to destroy our nationally-recognized and protected right."

The NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, wrote a July 2 op-ed for The Daily Caller alleging that the ATT "could seriously restrict your freedom to own, purchase and carry a firearm."

That's wrong and the NRA knows it. The regulation or registration of domestic gun ownership is clearly outside the scope of the treaty.

The UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty currently underway was established by UN Resolution 64/48 in 2009. The resolution, which establishes the framework for negotiations, explicitly acknowledges "the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory."

The NRA also ignores the fact that the Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it opposes any infringement on national arms transfer and ownership.

The Department of State Web site lists "Key U.S. Red Lines" on the ATT, including:

  • upholding of the Second Amendment;
  • no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms, and
  • no dilution of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms.

Furthermore, the Obama administration succeeded in getting other states to agree that the UN conference can only produce an Arms Trade Treaty text on the basis of consensus, which allows the United States to prevent it from crossing any of its "red lines."

As Galen Carey, Director of Government Relations for the National Association for Evangelicals summed it up at a June 26 briefing for reporters: "Some critics claim--wrongly, in my view--that an Arms Trade Treaty would threaten our second amendment rights.  In fact, the framework for the treaty negotiations specifically excludes any restrictions on domestic gun sales or ownership.  This issue is a red herring."

Mischaracterizing U.S. Senate Views

LaPierre also claimed today in his address at the UN that: "already 58 Senators have objected to any treaty that includes civilian arms."

That's a distortion of two separate July 2011 letters from Senators on the ATT.

A letter authored by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and signed by 44 other Senators to President Barack Obama "... encourages your administration to uphold our country's constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership."

The 45 Senators who signed the Moran letter don't say they will oppose a treaty that includes the undefined term, "civilian firearms," they say: "... we will oppose ratification of an Arms Trade Treaty ... that in any way restricts the rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens to manufacture, assemble, possess, transfer or purchase firearms, ammunition, and related items."

A separate July 16, 2011 letter authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) and signed by 12 other Democratic Senators actually expresses support for the ATT. They write: "We support efforts to better regulate the international trade of conventional weapons .... We should not allow the unregulated trade of these weapons to continue fueling conflict and instability in nations around the world." Their concern is simply that "the Arms Trade Treaty must not in any way regulate the domestic manufacture, possession or sales of firearms or ammunition."

The Senators' concerns about private gun possession are unfounded because the ATT will not regulate and would not affect domestic gun ownership rights and regulation and the Obama administration has made it clear it will not support a treaty that would.

Fox News Questions LaPierre's Claims

In a July 5 interview on Fox News, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre went so far as to say that the proposed treaty "says to people in the United States turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government, and the government will protect you."

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reminded LaPierre that the treaty is about "global arms sales" not "domestic sales." She reminded the viewers that, "...the administration has said we support this but it doesn't infringe on our Second Amendment rights here. As a practical matter you tell us, to gun owners watching this program right now, what would it mean for them?"

LaPierre went on to make the make the incredible claim that: "Right now it would affect every handgun, rifle and shotgun American citizens own."

Kelly asked: "How?"

In response, LaPierre suggested that: "It sets up global agencies, data centers, tracking, monitoring, surveillance, supervision, it institutionalizes the whole UN gun plan within the bureaucracy of the United Nations with a permanent funding mechanism."

In reality, the ATT would require individual governments to set up national systems to review and license imports and exports of conventional weapons--not internal arms transfers or arms registration.

Nor would the ATT set up a "global agency." In the view of the vast majority of states--including the United States--the treaty would establish an "implementation support unit" consisting of no more than 3-4 persons and they would be directed by the member states of the treaty, not the UN. This small unit would be funded out of the UN's general budget.

It's not surprising that LaPierre could not back up his claim that the ATT "would affect every handgun, rifle, and shotgun American citizens own" with any specific facts--because the allegation that ATT poses a threat to U.S. Second Amendment rights is not grounded in reality.

What explains all the hyperbole? In his Fox News appearance, Mr. LaPierre provided a clue. He said: "I hope everyone joins the NRA as an act of defiance against this UN plan."

In other words, the NRA's false claim that the ATT threatens the legal rights of U.S. citizens to possess firearms may really just be a cynical ploy designed to funnel more donations to the already wealthy organization.

The "More Guns to Sudan" Argument

NRA lobbyist Chris Cox makes the Orwellian argument in his July 2 oped that the ATT would undermine the security of civilians in Sudan threatened by the authoritarian regime in Khartoum.

Cox writes that the government officials negotiating the ATT "... ought to see how far their gun-confiscation agenda resonates with hundreds of thousands of defenseless Sudanese men, women and children who live in constant fear of being beaten, raped, sold into slavery or murdered."

In reality, the ATT is not a gun confiscation plan, and the ATT has the support of influential Sudanese leaders who have their people's best interests in mind and the experience to understand what works and what doesn't in their country. One such individual is Bishop Elias Taban, the President of the Sudan Evangelical Alliance, who was once forced to become a child soldier in the Sudanese Liberation Movement.

In a July 10 interview with The Christian Post, Taban explained that in Sudan "in most cases even if you have weapons you will not be able to defend yourself."

The problem in the Dafur and Nuba mountains region of Sudan is that the population is under assault from the government's overwhelming firepower, which consists of tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, machine guns, military aircraft, helicopters, and bombs, all of which is supplied by weapons manufacturers in Belarus, China, and Russia.

Galen Carey, who served for over 25 years as an overseas missionary in Mozambique, Croatia, Kenya, Indonesia and Burundi noted that "As Christians, as humanitarians who support evangelical work, we try and make sure that supplies and weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."

"When we lived in Burundi, we actually were at a Bible study when the town was shelled by rebels who had taken control of some of the hills outside the town, and so there were shells landing all around us. So it is not only just local people, but also missionaries and humanitarian workers and even military who are threatened by this loose control of weapon."

Carey says he believes that it is perfectly legitimate for the government to use weapons for self-defense and to keep the peace, but not to wreak violence and harm others.

The purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty is to make it harder for unscrupulous government suppliers and arms brokers to transfer conventional weapons and ammunition across international borders in violation of international arms embargoes and to governments committing human rights abuses and to criminal gangs and terrorists.

The Small Arms and Light Weapons Issue

The one serious issue raised by the NRA, as well as some members of Congress, is whether the ATT negotiators should include small arms and light weapons within the scope of the treaty.

The NRA's misplaced fear that the ATT will affect "civilian" firearms has led them to suggest excluding small arms and light weapons from the treaty. Some members of Congress have expressed concerns that by including small arms and light weapons in the treaty, it becomes "too broad" and is therefore unenforceable.

This argument ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices.

Today, only 90 countries report having basic regulations on the international transfer of small arms and light weapons. Only 56 countries control arms brokers and only 25 have criminal penalties associated with illicit brokering.

That is why the Obama administration--and the vast majority of other states--is on record in support of including small arms and light weapons in the scope of the treaty.

Furthermore, illicit transfers of small arms and light weapons are a big part of the problem that demands action by responsible states. The British government estimates that at least 400,000 people are killed by illegal small arms and light weapons each year.

The only states joining the NRA in opposition to including small arms and light weapons are a few not so honorable arms exporters and importers--China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and Venezuela--who would rather be able to continue to sell and buy conventional weapons without common-sense global standards.

The Bottom Line

Allegations that an ATT would infringe on the right of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery. No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international standards for regulating the global arms trade.--DARYL G. KIMBALL AND WYATT HOFFMAN

Additional Resources

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. ACA publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.

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The ongoing conflict in Syria-like recent wars in Burma, Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Sierra Leone-underscores the urgent need for common standards for international transfers of conventional weapons and ammunition, as well as legally-binding requirements for all states to review exports and imports--particularly for arms transfers that could lead to human rights abuses or violate international arms embargoes.

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