Last week, we blogged about several serious problems with a bill introduced by Representative Michael Turner (R-OH) and used by the House Armed Services Committee as the basis for a provision in the 2012 Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA provision would hinder implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, but turned out to have a number of consequences the congressman probably did not consider.
One problem in Rep. Turner’s bill—that it prevented the dismantlement of weapons already slated for destruction— was corrected in the amendment the committee adopted. But a more serious problem was not. As we pointed out, “If the Kyl-Turner bill or the House NDAA are ever signed into law, the surveillance process—which entails the dismantlement of warheads—would stop. The NNSA would be unable to certify the reliability, safety, and security of the stockpile until specific, long-term conditions are satisfied.”
The full House begins to consider the defense bill today, and Rep. Turner has submitted another amendment to his original amendment of the bill. It would allow nuclear weapons to be retired and dismantled if it is “determined by the Secretary of Defense to be necessary to ensure the continued safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile.”
While Rep. Turner’s second amendment fixes one specific problem, it leaves intact the overall intent of the initial amendment. And that is the real problem, since it severely limits the ability of the President and the U.S. military to determine the size and structure of U.S. nuclear forces.