Harris, Feinstein, Colleagues Call to Ban Low-Yield Nuclear Missiles Deployment and Extend New START Treaty in Final Defense Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. August 21, 2019 –  U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Tuesday joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and 15 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) urging them to include three key nuclear weapons provisions in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. The provisions, which were included in the House-passed NDAA, would ban the deployment of the W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead, urge the Trump Administration to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and prevent an arms race by denying funding for certain types of intermediate-range nuclear missiles following the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

In their letter, the senators expressed support for a provision banning the deployment of the W76-2 low-yield nuclear warhead for the Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile, a poorly conceived and ill-advised new nuclear weapon that would reduce the threshold for nuclear use and make nuclear escalation more likely. The senators argued that equipping a Trident missile with a nuclear weapon would put our nuclear armed submarines-our most valuable strategic asset-at risk, since firing such a missile from one of these submarines would risk disclosing their location to our enemies.

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“This warhead is a dangerous, costly, unnecessary, and redundant addition to the U.S. nuclear arsenal,” the senators wrote. “The W76-2 would reduce the threshold for nuclear use and make nuclear escalation more likely.”

The senators also urged Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed to retain a provision expressing the sense of Congress that the United States should seek to extend New START, now the last remaining arms control treaty in force between the world’s two largest nuclear-armed powers – the United States and Russia. The provision calls for extending the treaty from February 2021 to February 2026, unless Russia is in material breach of the treaty or another arms control agreement with equal or more comprehensive limits and verification provisions supersedes it.

“Not only does New START provide much needed nuclear stability, it also affords the United States with invaluable insight into Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” the senators continued. “Extending the Treaty for another five years would provide a foundation for the Trump Administration to achieve its goal of negotiating more comprehensive follow on arms control agreements.”

Finally, the senators called on Inhofe and Reed to include a provision that aims to prevent an arms race in the European or Asian theaters following the collapse of the INF Treaty. The provision denies funding for new INF-type missiles until pragmatic diplomatic and strategic planning steps are taken.

“The United States and its NATO allies can and must respond to Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty, but we must do so in a way that does not contribute to a renewed arms race or drive a wedge in our existing alliances,” the senators wrote.

Joining Harris, Feinstein, and Warren in sending the letter were Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.