Testimony of Senators Robert Kerrey (D-NE), Carl Levin (D-MI), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and John W. Warner (R-VA) Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the CTBT
October 7, 1999
SEN. HELMS: All right, fellas. The committee will come to order. The Foreign Relations Committee now resumes its final hearing on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And what an array of colleagues we have there to testify.
SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. (D-DE): Mr. Chairman, that would scare any adversary away! We don't need a test ban treaty.
SEN. HELMS: I don't know what the protocol is, but first we're going to hear from the distinguished chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner, who will report on the three days of extensive CTBT hearings the committee held this week. And he's joined by the distinguished ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin. Welcome to you.
And then we'll hear from the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Shelby, who will report on his committee's findings on this treaty, and from the vice chairman of that committee, Senator Bob Kerrey.
And on our second panel we will hear from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is in my office next door, and I'll wave to her, and she's coming to hear you herself.
And finally, we will hear from several distinguished arms control experts, former ACTA director Ron Lehman (sp), chairman of the Nevada Alliance for Defense, Energy and Business Mr. Carl Wade (sp), and Dr. Richard Corwin (sp), senior fellow for science and technology, (APSI ?) Council on Foreign Relations. And in the interest of time, I'm going to forego any further comments.
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Chairman, I'd forego my opening statement until our colleagues have finished. But I'd like before the secretary speaks to make an opening statement.
SEN. HELMS: You bet. You get. Senator Warner.
SEN. WARNER: Mr. Chairman, Senator Biden, and colleagues, I think this is a very wise opportunity for this group to provide for this committee and for the public our individual views and those views relating to what do we do now with regards to the procedural situation confronting the United States Senate, a situation that was not of your making, Mr. Chairman, nor mine, or others.
Mr. Chairman, first, I have for some 30 years been involved in national security issues, beginning in 1969 when I went to the Department of Defense and now, 21 years on the Senate side in the Armed Services Committee. And the subject of this category of weapons, the nuclear weapons, has been foremost in my work these many, many years. I have looked at this treaty, I have studied this treaty, and to the extent I could force my mind open, I have carefully evaluated superb testimony that the Armed Services Committee has received in the past three days. I would vote today against this treaty. I would not recommend that this president or, indeed, the successive president, start testing. And mind you, Mr. Chairman, given that the tests in Pakistan and India occurred, the law which precluded testing is now vitiated. That's a small footnote.
But Mr. Chairman, the key to this thing is as follows: We have had witnesses on both sides of every issue; conscientious persons, persons who have dedicated 10, 15, 20 years of their life to providing America with a strong nuclear deterrent. They honestly differ, I say to you, Mr. Chairman and members of this committee. There are honest differences on both sides, leaving, clearly, a reasonable doubt -- and I come from the old school that it should be beyond any reasonable doubt if we're going to take a step that affects our vital security interests for decades to come; indeed, possibly, into perpetuity as it relates to this cadre of weapons. The United States today possesses the strongest conventional force. Russia's conventional force is dwindling. The NATO countries are cutting back. Indeed, our allies Great Britain and France are cutting back on conventional forces.
The nuclear arsenals are taking on, particularly in Russia, a greater and greater significance with regard to their military and strategic planning. And at that very time, we cannot take any step, most particularly this treaty in its present form, that would weaken that deterrent. It's that deterrent, Mr. Chairman, that prevented any confrontation of a significant nature on the continent of Europe for 50 years. We celebrated here in the nation's capital, just months ago, the 50th anniversary of NATO, NATO not having been involved in a major conflict for those 50 years. And now, of course, we've had the Bosnia conflict situation in Kosovo. But it was that nuclear deterrent that held at bay the Soviet Union. And now this treaty puts that in jeopardy. The witnesses that have come before our committee, the ones that had the most difficult time, I believe, were the uniformed witnesses because they want to do what they can to support their commander in chief. But they gave us their best professional advice. Others who have retired likewise submitted (statements ?). Mr. Chairman, the key to every single uniformed person today supporting this treaty is the safeguard provision which says you can pull out five, 20, 15 years hence, if the president cannot certify that that stockpile is credible and safe.
Now, Mr. Chairman, our committee, under my guidance and that of my colleague, stayed very clearly to our jurisdiction -- the military implications. But I hope you will develop, and particularly with the secretary of State, the question that needs to be answered: What happens if we pull out of that treaty five or 10 years hence; what happens to those nations that placed in us full faith and credit as we went ahead if -- that won't happen, but anyway -- if we went ahead and ratified this treaty, what happens to those nations? We leave them out there hanging naked 10 or 15 years from now; naked in the sense that they have not taken such steps as they may wish to develop a nuclear deterrent. But more importantly, by taking that action of pulling out, we have to signal to the world that we have less than full faith and credit in the effectiveness of our nuclear stockpile as a deterrent and for safety.
Let me touch on safety a minute. I've seen these weapons. I've actually gone up and touched them just out of curiosity, and I asked General Shelton the following question: In his career, had he handled them, and he said, of course he had. All of them. I said, Put yourself in the uniform of a young sailor, airman or Marine today that has to deal with storing the weapons, that has to deal with bringing them out from time to time and putting them in the various launch platforms, be it submarines, airplanes, or whatever the case may be, and you cannot say to that sailor, that airman, that Marine, that it's absolutely safe for you to deal with those weapons. And there are many civilians that likewise have to work with them, and these weapons are stored and co-located in various places in America and, indeed, Mr. Chairman, beyond our shores. What do you say to nations as they are following this that are providing the host facilities for storage that there could be a point in time when we cannot have the degree of confidence in the safety of these weapons?
Mr. Chairman, I hope -- and I've had the privilege of working with my good friend Senator Levin, Senator Biden and some others -- just as colleagues do; we've all been here two decades or more -- to see whether or not there isn't -- and I know the chair has spoken to this -- isn't a means by which we can bring reasonable and open and rational minds together to work what is in the best interests of not only our nation but, indeed, the world and at this time not bring to finality by vote a decision on this treaty.
I hope that that is done, but that would -- if the committee is interested, at some point I'll be glad to give you the benefit of one senator's view as to how it can be done. But I'd be presumptuous at this point in time. I think I should yield to my other colleagues. I've covered the principal points and I may have a point or two after I listen to them. I thank the chair.
SEN. HELMS: Very well. Senator Shelby.
SEN. SHELBY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Biden, colleagues. It's a privilege for me to appear before this committee at this time to present my views as the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I am -- and I want to be very specific here -- I'm speaking in my capacity as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, but I should make it clear that I am not, Mr. Chairman, speaking for the entire committee. I think that's important. Due to the limited time available, the Intelligence Committee has not, Mr. Chairman, prepared a full committee report on the capability of the United States to monitor compliance with the CTBT. Furthermore, members of the committee have differing opinions on this issue. Mr. Chairman, I intend, at the proper time, to vote against the resolution of ratification.
I will do so for a number of reasons, but primarily because it's my considered judgment, as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, based on a review of the intelligence analysis and on testimony this week from the intelligence community's senior arms control analyst, that it's impossible to monitor compliance with this treaty with the confidence that the Senate should demand before providing its advice and consent for ratification.
Chairman, simply put, at this point, I'm not confident that we can now or can in the foreseeable future detect any and all nuclear explosions prohibited under the treaty. While I have a greater degree of confidence in our ability to monitor higher-yield explosions in known test sites, I have markedly less confidence in our capabilities to monitor lower-yield and/or evasively conducted tests, including, Mr. Chairman, tests that may enable states to develop new nuclear weapons or improve existing weapons. At this point, I should point out too that while the proponents of the treaty have argued that it will prevent nuclear proliferation, the fact is that some of the countries of most concern to us -- North Korea, Iran and Iraq -- can develop, Mr. Chairman, as you know, and deploy nuclear weapons without any nuclear tests whatsoever.
With respect to monitoring, in July of '97, the intelligence community issued a national intelligence estimate entitled: "Monitoring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Over the Next 10 Years." While I cannot go into the classified details here this afternoon, I can say that the NIE was not encouraging about our ability to monitor compliance with the treaty or about the likely utility of the treaty in preventing countries like North Korea, Iran and Iraq from developing and fielding nuclear weapons. The NIE identified numerous challenges, difficulties and credible evasion scenarios that affect the intelligence community's confidence in its ability to monitor compliance.
Mr. Chairman, because the details are classified and because of the inherent difficulty of summarizing a very highly technical analysis covering a number of different countries and a multitude of variables, I recommend that members, including the members of this committee, review this document with the following caution: Based on testimony before the committee this week, I believe that newly acquired information requires reevaluation of the 1997 estimate's assumptions and underlying analysis on certain key issues. The revised assumptions and analysis appear certain to lead to even more pessimistic conclusions.
While the intelligence community has not yet provided the committee with a written analysis of those issues, that transcript from Tuesday's hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee is available to the members.
Many proponents of the treaty place their faith, Mr. Chairman, in monitoring aids provided under the treaty such as the International Monitoring System -- IMS -- a multinational seismic detection system, and the CTBT's On-Site Inspection regime -- OSI. Based on a review of the structure, likely capabilities and procedures of these international mechanisms, Mr. Chairman, neither of which will be ready to function for a number of years, and based on the intelligence community's own analysis and statements, I'm concerned that these organizations will be of at best limited, if not marginal margin.
I believe this IMS will be technically inadequate. For example, Mr. Chairman, it was not designed to detect evasively conducted tests which, if you are Iraq or North Korea, are precisely the kind you're going to conduct. It was designed, as you know, Mr. Chairman, with diplomatic sensitivities rather than effective monitoring in mind. And it will be eight to 10 years before the system is complete.
Because of these factors and for other technical reasons, I'm afraid that the IMS is more likely to muddy the waters by injecting questionable data into what will inevitably be highly charged political debate over possible non-compliance. As a result, the value of more accurate, independently obtained U.S. information will be undermined, making it more difficult for the U.S. to make its case for noncompliance if it were to become necessary.
And with respect to OSI, I believe that the on-site inspection regime invites delay and confusion. For example, while U.S. negotiators originally sought an automatic green light for on-site inspections as a result of the opposition of the People's Republic of China, now, the regime that was adopted allows inspections, as you know, Mr. Chairman, only with the approval of 30 of the 51 countries on the executive committee. Members of the committee will appreciate the difficulty of rounding up the votes for such a supermajority.
Mr. Chairman, I am also deeply troubled by the fact that the inspected party has a veto, a veto over including U.S. inspectors on an inspection team and the right of the inspected party to declare areas up to 50 kilometers off limits to inspection. I understand these provisions mirror limitations sought by Saddam Hussein on the UNSCOM inspectors, which leads me to believe that some of the OSI standards could be what's cut out for Iraq. As a result of these and other hurdles, Mr. Chairman, even if inspectors do eventually get near the scene of a suspicious event, the evidence, which is highly perishable, may well have vanished.
One final but critical matter that raises questions both as to Russian intentions under the CBT (sic) as to our monitoring capabilities, is the recently reported activity at Russia's Arctic test site. The Washington Post, as all of you know, last weekend reported that Russia continues to conduct possible low-yield nuclear tests at its Arctic test site, reportedly in order to develop a low- yield weapon -- new low-yield weapon that will be the linch pin of a new Russian military doctrine. The Washington Post also reported that the CIA cannot monitor such tests with enough precision to determine whether they are a nuclear or conventional explosion. Such activities, Mr. Chairman, will be of particular concern because there's evidence, including public statements from the Russian first deputy minister of Atomic Energy, that Russia intends to continue to conduct low-yield hydronuclear tests and does not believe that these constitute nuclear tests prohibited by the treaty.
Mr. Chairman, with your indulgence, I've tried to convey some very serious concerns about the practicality of this treaty, and that is extremely difficult to do in an unclassified forum such as this in a short time. I urge my colleagues, as they consider their position on this treaty, that they immerse themselves in the details because it's in the details where the fatal flaws of the document lie. For further information on this, I urge members to review the transcript of this week's Senate Intelligence Committee, and we will have it available in a secure place.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your indulgence.
SEN. HELMS: Great. And I thank you, sir. Carl -- Senator Levin?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Senator Biden and colleagues. Thank you for inviting us to testify about our own beliefs, but even more important perhaps, what we've heard in our hearings in our own committees.
President Eisenhower stated almost 40 years ago that the failure to achieve a nuclear test ban was, in his words, "have to be classed as the greatest disappointment of any administration, of any decade, of any time, of any party."
The central question that we face, however, every one of us as senators, is whether or not this treaty will make us safer or less safe, make us more secure or less secure as a nation. The secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our top military leadership, civilian and uniform, support this treaty. That is the testimony that we heard. It was strong testimony. It wasn't testimony which was qualified by any personal reservation that they are trying to support their commander in chief. They are doing the best they can.
It was their own personal view directly stated to us, looking us in the eye, because we asked them, eyeball to eyeball, "Do you, Chairman Shelton, do you, Secretary Cohen, support the ratification of the treaty?" And they said that they do.
General Shelton, who is our current chairman of course of the Joint Chiefs, said the following: that the Test Ban Treaty will help limit the development of more advanced and destructive weapons and inhibit the ability of more countries to acquire nuclear weapons. "It is true," he said, "that the treaty cannot prevent proliferation or reduce current inventories, but it can restrict nuclear weapons' progress and reduce the risk of proliferation." In short, our top uniformed military leader, General Shelton, said the following, quote: "The world will be a safer place with the treaty than without it. And it is in our national security interest to ratify the Test Ban Treaty," close quote.
The whole world, including nuclear weapons powers and countries that might want to become nuclear weapons powers, are going to be watching what the Senate does with this treaty. And our action will affect the willingness of other nations to refrain from future nuclear testing. Rejection of this treaty will have a profound negative impact in the battle against proliferation of nuclear weapons.
India tests, Pakistan tests, and we tell them: "Stop testing. You are endangering yourselves; you are endangering the world. For heaven's sake, stop your testing." If we are not willing to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, what standing do we have to urge India, Pakistan, any country, to stop testing? Over 150 nations have signed this treaty, including all of our allies by the way. There has been reference made to the fact that our allies depend upon our nuclear deterrent, and they do and have; and that our allies, who store these weapons, depend upon their being safe, and they do. Our allies recommend that we support this treaty, those very same allies that depend on our deterrent and rely upon them to be safe because they frequently are being stored on their land, every one of our NATO allies; South Korea, Japan. One hundred and fifty nations have signed this treaty.
Now the question has been raised whether or not somebody could cheat. And this is what Secretary Cohen's statement relating to that is: "Is it possible for states to cheat on the CTBT without being detected?" And I'm here quoting him. "The answer is yes. We would not be able to detect every evasively conducted nuclear test, and from a national security perspective, we do not need to. The U.S. will be able to detect a level of testing, the yield and number of tests by which a state could undermine the U.S. nuclear deterrent."
So although you cannot be certain that nobody can conduct a test with a very small yield, what Secretary Cohen is telling us, and has told us, is that any militarily significant test can be detected, that they cannot gain military advantage over us by cheating at those low levels. That is his position. That is the Joint Chiefs' position -- not my position, their position. It also happens to be mine, but that's not, obviously, as important.
And in addition, both Secretary Cohen and General Shelton have pointed out that this treaty, if it comes into effect, will increase our ability to observe and monitor tests, because it will increase and -- it will create -- excuse me -- an international monitoring system of 320 monitoring stations in 90 countries.
They also have testified to us that they have looked at the full range of intelligence information, including the up-to-date, current information which have been referred to by our good friends who have already testified, so that both Secretary Cohen and General Shelton have looked at the same intelligence information that they have referred to in their testimony and that we have looked at, and they have reached the exact same conclusion that they reached before: that this treaty is in our national interest and can be adequately, effectively verified, although you cannot perfectly verify a low-yield test.
Finally, we had the lab directors in front of us today. The lab directors say that with two things they are, quote, "on board."
Now, that's the word that they used this morning. Their testimony varied. There was not one statement for three directors, and there was a variation between their testimony. But when I asked them point- blank, Are you on board, under two conditions their answer was yes, that they are on board with the treaty. One is that the safeguards, all six, be incorporated formally in the resolution of ratification. And secondly, that there be robust funding of our safeguard program by the Congress. Those are critically important to them as it was -- our good friend Senator Warner said, it is important also to General Shelton and to Secretary Cohen.
I believe the defeat of this treaty would be disastrous to our effort to reduce proliferation, but let me just close with one suggestion. There are many of us who have not yet either reached a conclusion or feel that we have enough of a record to reach a conclusion. There are many of us that feel this is the wrong time to vote on ratification for many different reasons -- some of us because there's that national intelligence estimate, which Senator Shelby or Senator Warner made reference to. In fact, I think the chairman made reference to it, an ongoing national intelligence estimate. There are many reasons that our colleagues, at least many of our colleagues, think it is best not to vote at this time on this treaty.
There is precedent for a delay in voting on a treaty. There was a scheduled vote on the Chemical Weapons Convention when our good friend, Bob Dole, came out against the treaty, just as the current leading Republican candidate for president has come out against this treaty.
And what we did as a Senate was that we delayed the vote on the chemical weapons treaty in order to try to keep it out of politics to the extent we possibly could. We delayed that vote until after the presidential election and then we took the time to add some reservations and add some conditions to the resolution of ratification. We took that deliberative time to do that. We can't do that under this unanimous consent agreement. This unanimous consent agreement binds us to one amendment by the majority leader and one amendment by the Democratic leader. That's it. No reservations, conditions, declarations, statements, understandings, motions, things that you folks on this committee are experts at. Mr. Chairman, you, Senator Biden, others on this committee, over the years have lent your efforts to adding reservations, conditions, qualifications to treaties, and you have improved treaties in the process.
We cannot do that under the current unanimous consent agreement that we are operating under. We are restricted. That inhibits the deliberative process of this body. It is not in keeping with what the Senate should be and historically has been, which is a body that deliberates carefully on treaties and then lends or doesn't lend its advice and consent to those treaties.
So I would hope that, for many reasons, we would consider delaying the vote on this treaty next week. I think that significant progress has been made through these hearings, but for many of us there is much more information that is needed. And I think for all of us, from an institutional point of view, it would set a very bad precedent not to be able to offer reservations and other qualifications and amendments to a treaty that's being considered by the United States Senate.
I've taken a bit too long, and I again thank our chair and Senator Biden. Thank you.
SEN. HELMS: Thank you very much. Senator Kerrey?
SEN. BOB KERREY (D-NE): Mr. Chairman, Senator Biden, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I thank you for your invitation to testify and discuss the issues of verification and monitoring of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
As Senator Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has just testified, under normal circumstances our committee would call witnesses, collect data, and then submit a very detailed report to the Senate on this matter. However, given the condensed nature of the debate, like the chairman, I also regret that we've only had the opportunity to hold a single two-hour hearing and that the committee has not prepared a full report. I come before this committee in my capacity as vice chairman of the committee, and as Senator Shelby as well has said earlier, I speak for myself. I have not polled Democratic members of the committee to determine their views. The key phrase that I make in declaring that my estimate is that we can effectively monitor and verify compliance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is the phrase "effectively monitor and verify." This declaration, Mr. Chairman, is made instead of an absolute declaration of verification. I believe, I say with great respect to members of this committee, that absolute verification is an unattainable standard. Though it is a standard some have applied to establish as a benchmark for ratification, no treaty, from the Convention on Literary and Artistic Copyrights to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to the one that we're considering today, the CTBT, is absolutely verifiable.
The central question, I believe, should be, using existing assets, can the United States of America effectively monitor and verify this treaty? And my answer is yes. This conclusion, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, is supported by testimony that was offered yesterday by General John Gordon, the deputy director of Central Intelligence. It's also based upon briefings that we're received on the topics this committee has received over the years. And most important, Mr. Chairman, it's based upon an assessment of our current capability to monitor as well as our plan to modernize and improve our capability to do MASINT and to collect the data needed to monitor anything that we are concerned about in this world. We are the world's best at monitoring what's going on in the world. And if the United States of America says that we can't effectively verify, I would suggest it would be difficult for any nation to reach the conclusion that they can effectively verify this treaty or any modification of this treaty.
Mr. Chairman, I've heard some argument on last Sunday's Washington Post article in which it was reported the CIA had found that the data from the seismic sensors and other sources were insufficient to confirm the source of recent seismic activity in the Russian Arctic region of Novaya Zemlya, this is reason enough to oppose this treaty. Mr. Chairman, there are not, nor will there ever be, enough seismic sensors in the world to catch a country that's cheating at the margins. The important factor is this: We do have the capability today, and we will continue in the future to catch any country whose activity would threaten our ability to defend U.S. national security interests. We are today not only highly capable; we are the most capable nation at the detection of nuclear detonations. The United States has today the capability to detect any test that could threaten our nuclear deterrence. The type of test that could be conducted without our knowledge could only be marginably useful and would not cause a shift in the existing strategic nuclear balance. In addition, Mr. Chairman, the United States has the capability to detect the level of testing that would be required for another country to develop and weaponize in advance thermonuclear warheads.
These are existing national capabilities. These capabilities will continue without Senate action on the CTBT. But with Senate action and the action of 16 other named nuclear nations, we will be able to increase our detection assets. Our ability to monitor the treaty will be enhanced by access to the more than 300 monitoring stations that will make up the CTBT's international monitoring system and the CTBT requirement of installation of 17 monitoring stations in the Middle East, 11 in China, 31 in Russia will improve our ability to verify this treaty.
Mr. Chairman, in the coming decades, our intelligence agencies are going to be increasingly tasked with monitoring global nuclear testing. The creation of additional tools and resources that will come as a result of the CTBT, will not decrease the safety of the American people; it will increase security.
And we also discussed, Mr. Chairman, two additional ways in which I believe the CTBT will enhance U.S. national security:
First, a fully implemented CTBT will all but halt the ability of threshold states from establishing an effective and reliable strategic nuclear force. The inability of nations, like Iran and North Korea, to conduct nuclear tests will make is much less likely for them to become nuclear powers. And our ability to go the United Nations Security Council to obtain multilateral resolutions of sanctions will minimize the go-it-alone U.S. efforts we are far too often forced to use.
Along the same line, the inability of existing nuclear states to conduct further nuclear tests will impede, if not cease, their efforts to make technological advances in yields and miniaturization, advances already achieved by the United States.
As my friend and our former colleague Senator Jim Exon said after returning from the Nevada test site, quote: "No American general would trade our nuclear forces for another nation's. Given the overwhelming capability of the United States, I recognize that the test ban would clearly be in our national interest," end of quote.
Bluntly speaking, Mr. Chairman, we have the most effective and deadly nuclear force in the world. Therefore, to maintain our existing edge, it is in our interest to ratify the CTBT and to halt the nuclear development advancement of other nations.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman, the greatest threat to the safety of the American people is the nuclear legacy of the Cold War. To confront this threat, we need to employ a wide array of tools. We need to work with Russia to achieve further reductions in our nuclear arsenals. We need to fund the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which assists the Russians with eliminating their nuclear weapons. We need a strong intelligence capability. We need to continue to pursue national missile defense. We need to maintain a rigorous military and the will to use it when our national interests are threatened. And finally, Mr. Chairman, we need the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT alone, however, will not protect the American people. But used in conjunction with these other resources, it will help check the proliferation of nuclear weapons, improve our national capabilities to detect global nuclear activity, and enhance United States' national security.
Again, I thank the chairman and I thank the Foreign Relations Committee for inviting me to testify.
SEN. WARNER: Could I just add a fact? My distinguished colleague quoted extensively from Secretary Cohen and General Shelton. I'd like to --
SEN. KERREY: That would be your distinguished colleague Senator Levin.
SEN. WARNER: You're back again. I'd like to have the opportunity to provide as a part of my statement the statements by six secretaries of Defense, former, led by Secretary Schlesinger, who presented strong points that we should take into consideration, as well as Dr. Kissinger, by letter.
The chairman talked about the intelligence, which we cannot discuss here factually, but it will be before all senators in S. 407 as a part of your record and our record. The key thing, Mr. Chairman, is that on their own initiative, the intelligence community decided they had to update this NIE as it regards to detecting illegal tests. On their own initiative. They informed our committee they would not be finished with that until early next year. That concerns me greatly. And every senator should examine, to the extent they've conducted that investigation, what they have found.
Lastly, we're substituting 50 years of proven capability of testing with actual tests -- underground, by and large, certainly in the last two decades -- for a system which is barely on the blueprint design boards, and it's going to take, in the testimony of the lab directors today, anywhere from 10 to 20 years to put in place that computer -- largely computer system to give this great nation of ours the confidence to some degree in the credibility of the system and the safety of the system.
Also, much has been said about monitoring. I hope this committee looks in very carefully to the fine print of this treaty, which says that 30 nations must concur in the right of this nation of ours or another nation to go and do an on-site inspection. And that group of 30 nations could consist of voting members like Iraq, Iran, or you name it. Now, Mr. Chairman, we've just finished an operation to Kosovo where with 19 other nations, bonded together by a protocol treaty called NATO, had some difficulties among themselves dealing with the operation that proved to be completed, it was after 74 days. What's the chance that 30 disparate nations, and what period of time, are going to agree on an on-site inspection?
Lastly, this treaty, Mr. Chairman, is designed to prevent this nation of ours from modernize -- it does not stop other nations from doing whatever they wish, if they don't to be a part of it. And in no way does this treaty lay a finger on terrorists or rogue nations who want to gain access and use these weapons in an antithetical way to the interests of our security and our allies.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): Senator, isn't it true there's no treaty if these other nations don't sign it?
SEN. WARNER: Beg your pardon?
SEN. BIDEN: Isn't it true there is no treaty if these other nations have -- which have nuclear capacity do not sign?
SEN. WARNER: It's all apart of the ratification, I think, is your point.
SEN. BIDEN: Yeah. Right.
SEN. SHELBY: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. HELMS: Senator Shelby?
SEN. SHELBY: Mr. Chairman, I want to associate myself truly with the remarks of the distinguished chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner. He said it well.
But I would ask again that every member of this committee in the Senate come to S-407 in their time and look at some classified information that I believe that you owe it to yourself to -- before you vote.
SEN. KERREY: Mr. Chairman, if I could just associate myself with the comments -- (laughter) -- made by both my friends.
First of all, as to the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies producing a new NIE, there is no definite end date here. We're constantly evaluating our capacity to monitor and the risk to the United States of America. So no one should presume, well, we can -- we've got the definitive, final, end-of-the-game report that's going to come due next year. This is a constant process.
And again I underscore, for emphasis, nobody on the face of the Earth is better at monitoring risks to the nation and the people in that nation than the United States of America. We have the best monitoring capability of anybody right now. And the central question is not "Can I monitor something bad that's going on out there," but "can I monitor something that will shift the strategic balance and put us at risk?" If it doesn't shift the strategic balance and put at risk, it's not something that should cause us, it seems to me, to fly off and say that the nation is in peril.
SEN. LEVIN: May I just have one moment?
SEN. HELMS: Sure.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, we currently are -- we currently have a safe and secure nuclear stockpile without testing, and we have not tested for about seven years. The program, the security program which we are relying on, is not 10 and 20 years off; it is being utilized right now to certify to every one of us that our weapons stockpile is safe and secure. And those lab directors, when asked point blank by me whether or not while this system, the safeguard system, is being improved --
SEN. BIDEN: Enhanced, senator.
SEN. LEVIN: -- enhanced, whether or not they can give us that certification. If given the resources by this Congress and if those other safeguards are in place, their answer is they believe they can. And if they can't certify, they will not, and under the specific safeguards provisions that the president has proposed and that we would incorporate, we are giving notice to everybody in advance that we would consider it our supreme national interest to resume testing if those lab directors and the secretaries of Defense and Energy cannot give us the certification that our inventory is safe and secure.
So this isn't like some rinky-dink system that's far off, we're investing billions of dollars each year, and have for many, many years. We rely on it right now. There's been three certifications under that system. And as to the fact that it would take 30 or 50 nations in order that we could have inspections, that is true. Most of those nations, thank God, are not like Iraq and Iran, most of those nations are our allies, and just because a few of those 50 nations might be some we couldn't rely on, when you go down that list, you will see that the vast majority of those nations are nations that we would rely on, do rely on every day as allies, and have an abhorrence and a fear of nuclear weapons that is such that they would be highly supportive of an inspection in order to see whether somebody had cheated on this treaty.
SEN. SHELBY: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. HELMS: Go ahead.
SEN. SHELBY: I hope we will all do the right thing, but I trust that we will be careful in what we do.
SEN. HELMS: So do I. John, do you have a comment, question?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): I've got a bunch.
SEN. HELMS: All right.
SEN. BIDEN: Go ahead, John, but I've got a couple (from my friends ?).
SEN. HELMS: Well I gave him short shrift this morning and --
SEN. BIDEN: I agree, he's a good man, a good -- (off mike).
SEN. KERRY: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, sir. Let me just -- if I can begin, I really find this debate somewhat extraordinary to some degree because there are reasonable people who are thinking about their nation, and I suppose there may be some politics at play here. I personally would really hope we don't have a vote.
And I've expressed that to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee and to the leadership and I think -- and that's not because I'm trying to save the Republican Party from itself, in my judgment. (Laughter.) That is because in my judgment it would deal us a really enormous long-term injury for a lot of different reasons that I don't have time to lay out now, but in the debate we may.
But, you know, it's extraordinary to me to hear some of these arguments. Thanks to you, when you were secretary of Navy, I got to go to nuclear/chemical/biological warfare school and I learned then you can drop these weapons and they don't go off. I learned about one-point detonation, I learned about some of the mechanical and electrical safety measures that are involved. And I know and you know, as former secretary of the Navy and as chairman of the committee, that the notion that somehow Americans are unsafe with a weapon that is sitting there, some component of which may deteriorate, is simply extraordinarily inaccurate and, in fact, scary to people in a way that it shouldn't be.
SEN. WARNER: I don't wish to scare. I just actually disagree -- (inaudible).
SEN. KERRY: Well, the fact is that every electrical and mechanical component can be inspected and replaced. In point of fact, if that were our fear, we could rebuild each warhead. In fact, we have rebuilt -- we have the B-61 that was changed in 1988 and certified without any nuclear test.
Safety is not dependent on a nuclear explosion. Safety is dependent on the safety mechanisms working, and all of them can be tested without a nuclear explosion. So no one should say to the American people that deterioration over years somehow puts them at risk for a matter of safety.
Now, secondly, I asked a question earlier this morning of Ambassador Kilpatrick and Secretary Weinberger, and they answered it, I thought, correctly and honestly. And the chairman wasn't here. We have 6,000 or so warheads today. We hope, under START II, to get them down to 3,500. We hope, if we ever get to START III, we'll get them down to 2,225. If you were offered the option 10 years from now or 20 years from now with our current safety mechanisms and verification capacities to take 20, 30, of those warheads out of our entire arsenal and we offered you the option of dropping them on North Carolina or Virginia, I guarantee you you'd say please don't do that. Because you know as well as I do the better percentage of them are going to go off, if not all of them.
Now, deterrence is built on a perspective of threat. It's built on somebody's supposition that something might happen; that was the entire mutual assured destructive theory that took us through 50 years successfully. And to suggest that, in a mere 15 or 20 years, with the current level of inspection, the current level of computerization, the current level of technological capacity of this country, the odds are 100 or 500 or a thousand of those multiple thousands not being able to explode and provide deterrence is extraordinary.
Why otherwise, I ask the chairman, would Japan and all these other countries that depend on us for their deterrent umbrella, why would they be the signatories, and why would they be saying, "Please, United States of America, sign this"? Have they lost their senses about their own national security? No.
I believe they are tuned in to the reality of deterrence in a way that some people out here are trying to sort of -- I don't completely understand it. I know this; that if you don't have this verification process in place, and monitoring of the other systems, you guarantee that every nation in the world is in a free-for-all. But if you have it, you have the best opportunity of all to try to create a regimen, a protocol, under which we rein in what we've fought for 50 years to rein in. It's incomprehensible to me that people would want to reject that.
SEN. HELMS: All right. Who wants to add to that?
SEN. WARNER: Quickly. I respectfully disagree with your hypothesis. I think time could take its toll and could affect safety. And I think the --
SEN. KERRY: Even if you replace them every five years?
SEN. WARNER: Senator, we have dismantled so much of our infrastructure to do exactly what you speak of.
There is only one really, nation now building new weapons, and that's Russia, a new tactical weapon. And we have got to be cautious about that.
And secondly, with all due respect to my distinguished ranking member, I have to tell you that the stockpile is safe today and tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, predicated on test data that was done in the past 50-plus years, by actual testing.
The system coming online, the SST as we call it, is heavily dependent on computers. And unequivocally in our testimony, in response to my questions and others, that system will not be up and fully ready for five to 20 years, depending on the lab director you ask.
So I think that it's imperative that the Senate understand that.
SEN. KERRY: The only response I make, Mr. Chairman, in fairness is under the safeguards that I believe any president would wisely adopt you can pull out of this treaty for the national interests.
SEN. WARNER: And what's the consequence to the world when you do that? What -- (inaudible) -- you've done to the world!
SEN. KERRY: Well, it's better to have been in it --
SEN. HELMS: (Gavels.)
SEN. KERRY: -- and to have gone down the process, because the only reason you'd pull out is because it's falling apart, because you can't safeguard your future. And that's why you'd make that decision. The consequences of that are no different from the consequences that you're proposing we adopt today.
SEN. HELMS: Please, please, please. My staff is already fussing at me for -- of course, I'm enjoying this. (Laughter.) But we have Madeleine Albright. And I -- whereas I like to hear you folks, I'd a heck of a lot rather hear her.
SEN. KERREY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. HELMS: Thank you very much.
SEN. : Thanks.
SEN. : That was an excellent panel, Chairman.
(Pause while panel exits.) SEN. BIDEN: Let's do a little huddle. I'll tell you about the moral of this story is, you get all these senators together, you can hardly control anything.
SEN. HELMS: (Laughs.) Exactly right. But it was fun, though.