VP Biden Pushes for Greater Spending on US Nuclear Stockpile, Outlines Administration Approach to Disarmament

By Matt Loffman

Feb 18, 2010 4:49pm

ABC News' Karen Travers reports: Vice President Biden argued today that the United States needs to spend more on maintaining its nuclear arsenal and laboratories in order to reverse what he called a decade of "dangerous decline." "The signs of age and decay are becoming more apparent every day," the vice president said of the nation’s nuclear laboratories. He said that Energy Secretary Steven Chu met with the heads of these labs who "described a dangerous impact these budgetary pressures were having on their ability to manage our arsenal without testing." "They say that the situation is literally a threat to our national security," he said. Biden said that the president’s proposed budget included $7 billion allocated to maintain the nation’s nuclear stockpile and modernize its nuclear infrastructure. The vice president said that was an increase of $624 million than last year and it was necessary even in tough economic times. "Even in these tight fiscal times, we will commit the resources needed to require — and are required to maintain our security interests," he said. "This investment is not only consistent with a nonproliferation agenda, we argue it's essential to pursue a nonproliferation agenda." Biden said today that at the international nuclear summit in Washington this April, the United States will work for "firm commitments" from its international partners to secure vulnerable nuclear material within four years. "There's a lot of it out there. It's a very high priority," Biden said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington to an audience of academics, senior military officials, and proliferation experts. "We cannot wait, we cannot wait for an act of nuclear terrorism before coming together to share the best practices and raise security standards."
The April summit will bring together representatives from over 40 nations to discuss nuclear disarmament. In a speech in Prague last April, President Obama outlined his goal of a nuclear-free world and pledged to host the global summit within a year. "Today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the president said. "This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change." Biden said that while the both Republicans and Democrats have questioned element of the Obama Administration’s nuclear nonproliferation agenda, including the costs and the reductions, he said he and the president "respectfully disagree." "As both the only nation that ever used a nuclear weapon, and as a strong proponent of nonproliferation, the United States has long embodied a stark, but inevitable contradiction," the vice president said. "The horror of nuclear conflict may make its occurrence unlikely, but its very existence, the very existence of nuclear weapons leaves the human race ever at the brink of self destruction, particularly if the weapons fall into the wrong hands." Biden said that U.S. and Russian negotiators were "completing an agreement" on extending the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (START), which expired in December. "A new START treaty will promote strategic stability and bolster the global effort to prevent proliferation by showing that the world's leading nuclear powers are committed to reducing their arsenal," the vice president said. "And it will build momentum for the collaboration with Russia on strengthening the global consensus that nations who violate the (Non Proliferation Treaty’s) NPT's obligations should be held accountable." Biden said the Obama administration is confident that "all reasonable concerns" over the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty "have now been addressed." The United States signed but did not ratify the treaty – in 1999 it fell 19 votes short of the 67 needed for ratification "The test ban treaty is as important as ever," the vice president said. -Karen Travers

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