Vice President Biden’s speech speech today at the National Defense University was an important part of the Obama Administration’s campaign to promote its nuclear weapons agenda.
The Vice President was introduced at the event by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Also in the audience was Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright as well as Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher and National Nuclear Security Agency Director Thomas D’Agostino.
The clear message: this speech was a Big Deal and the government is united behind the President’s agenda.
This speech followed the Vice President Wall Street Journal OpEd a couple of weeks ago and both are part of the long-awaited Administration offensive.
Today, the Vice President opened by citing President’s Obama’s Prague speech:
Last April, in Prague, President Obama laid out his vision for protecting our country from nuclear threats. He made clear we will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons, while retaining a safe, secure, and effective arsenal as long as we still need it. We will work to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And we will do everything in our power to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to terrorists and also to states that don’t already possess them.
Biden also gave a strong shout-out for the new nuclear reductions treaty being negotiated by the U.S. and Russia:
As I speak, U.S. and Russian negotiators are completing an agreement that will reduce strategic weapons to their lowest levels in decades. Its verification measures will provide confidence its terms are being met. These reductions will be conducted transparently and predictably. The new START treaty will promote strategic stability and bolster global efforts to prevent proliferation by showing that the world’s leading nuclear powers are committed to reducing their arsenals.
He began the follow-through on the President’s commitment to launch a vigorous campaign to win a new vote on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty based on the fact that the concerns raised a decade ago have been addressed:
The last piece of the President’s agenda from Prague was the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty . . . We are confident that all reasonable concerns raised about the treaty back then – concerns about verification and the reliability of our own arsenal – have now been addressed. The test ban treaty is as important as ever.
As with his Wall Street Journal piece, Biden spent a lot of time extolling the Administration’s increased budget allocation for the nuclear weapons complex. He pointed to the Administration’s recent budget request that includes $7 billion for maintaining our nuclear stockpile and modernizing our nuclear infrastructure — $624 million more than Congress approved last year – and an increase of $5 billion over the next five years.
He also praised the nuclear weapons laboratories as “national treasures.” He lamented that in recent years the nuclear weapons complex has been neglected and underfunded.
The funding increase and the exaltation of the labs is part of the Administration’s campaign to assuage concerns in the United States Senate, which must produce 67 votes to approve both nuclear treaties, about the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
Arms control opponents claim that U.S. nuclear weapons have atrophied over the years despite substantial evidence to the contrary – including the recent Jason’s report. The Obama Administration is determined to ensure that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile will remain safe, reliable and effective.
Thus it can be argued that it may be politically necessary to add money for the nuclear weapons complex. Some of us would prefer that the additional money be spent on nuclear weapons dismantlement as well as verification and detection work and improving safeguards technology for civilian nuclear power plants.
Overall, it was a good performance for a campaign that must be expanded in order to win Senate approval of the nuclear reductions treaty and the test ban treaty.