Ellen Tauscher
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel
Alexandria, VA
February 17, 2010


Good morning. Thank you very much Ed. I forgot that I was at your inaugural meeting in 2009. It goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished that I am back here today in a different job, in a different role. I want to thank you very much for your hard work and your commitment to these issues that are so complicated and dense and opaque at times and for your patriotism.

I also want to tell everyone how honored I am to share the podium with Ambassador Kislyak of the Russia Federation. We get to spend a lot of time together. We do it for two reasons. One because we need to because we are working on so many critical issues. But more importantly, Ambassador Kislyak has the best chef in Washington. So it’s always wonderful to be invited to the Ambassador’s residence to have lunch or dinner because he is a fabulous host and he is great friend.

So good morning to all of you. Some of you know me from one of my previous lives, I have had three or four, I was a member of Congress from California’s 10th Congressional District for 13 years. I was chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. I represented the smartest people in the world the people in the 10th Cong District who, not surprisingly, worked at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia California. It was my honor to represent them for the last 13 years and then be invited to come into the Obama administration about a year ago. So I am happy to speak to you as a former member of Congress and I’m also happy to speak to you as a current member of the Obama Administration. I guess I am really happy to see you because this is not a health care town hall.

But I guess it’s most important to remind everybody it’s really great to work in the Obama administration because we have a president who is so animated and so interested, and has talked so early in his presidency about the issue of the elimination of nuclear weapons. The President is not the first president to talk about these issues, but he is the first one to talk about it so early in his presidency. And he is certainly one that is truly animated about this. President Obama didn’t need to hear about this from a staffer. This was not a paper that was given to him on the campaign trail. This was an issue that Senator Obama and state Senator Obama cared about prior to coming to the presidency. Something he talked a lot about on the campaign trail. Something he talked about for a long time. I think it’s safe to say he truly understands the issue.

Some of you may know that last week, actually the week before, I was on an 8-country, 10-day trip through the snow belt, which included Paris and Bucharest and places that are supposed to have snow, and it even included Atlanta, Georgia, where I had to go because I couldn’t get back to Washington.

So today I am here to talk you a the Nuclear Deterrence Conference and while these are two different audiences – the folks that I spoke to in Paris 10 days ago at [Global] Zero – and the folks that are inside the industry and understand the weapons, who have worked at NNSA, DOE, and at the labs, and work in the industry, as I said. While you are two different audiences I can give the same speech. My core message is always the same. The Obama Administration will work to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons worldwide while ensuring that our nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, and effective so long as nuclear weapons exist.

There is nothing contradictory about decreasing the size and role of our nuclear weapons and increasing our confidence in our deterrent. Our growing knowledge of the reliability of our stockpile, through our stewardship efforts, enables us to safely continue reducing the number of weapons that are the legacy of the Cold War. Too many weapons of that era remain even though the Soviet Union no longer exists and even though we’re moving from an era of Mutually Assured Destruction to, Sergei, an era of Mutually Assured Stability.

Our primary focus today is no longer deterring a large-scale nuclear conflict between two superpowers, but preventing the use of even a single nuclear weapon. That’s why I am working to implement the President’s agenda and strengthen our deterrent. As the President said, we might not achieve the goal of a world without nuclear weapons in his lifetime. It may take patience and persistence. But the journey is perhaps more important than the destination. As I said in Paris earlier this month, we don’t view nuclear disarmament as a Holy Grail. Instead, it’s the concrete steps that we take to enhance our national security on the road to zero that will reduce risks and increase international stability.

Let me describe several of those steps. We are at the end game, we see the finish line of negotiating a START follow-on treaty. Our intent is to conclude an agreement that will help preserve stability and predictability at lower nuclear levels than ever before. While I won’t negotiate with myself in public or with Sergei at lunch, I assure you that this treaty will be verifiable and will advance our interests. We will accelerate our efforts to transform our nuclear weapons posture through the Nuclear Posture Review, which will submitted to Congress next month. And we will continue our work to keep vulnerable nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists by preparing for a successful Nuclear Security Summit in April and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in May.

At this point, I do want to talk about stockpile management because it’s just starting to get attention from Congress and the media even though it’s something I know that everyone here has paid attention to and written about for years for years. And here is where I should just start by reading from the Wall Street Journal opinion editorial written by four of our wisest statesmen: George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and Bill Perry. They understand the importance of moving toward eliminating nuclear weapons while making sure that we have a deterrent that protects us and our allies.

They’re absolutely correct in saying that our scientists and engineers at the three national labs deserve to be “applauded for the success they have achieved in extending the life of existing weapons. Their work has led to important advances in the scientific understanding of nuclear explosions and obviated the need for underground nuclear explosive tests.”

They went on to argue that we will need to invest in our nuclear complex. And I couldn’t agree more. I did my best as a member of Congress to support the complex because I know, like you do, whether we have 2,000 weapons or 20 weapons, we will need the personnel and the infrastructure to keep our nuclear deterrent safe, secure, and effective.

As you know, President Obama’s budget devotes $7 billion for maintaining our nuclear-weapons stockpile and complex. That’s a $600 million increase. That’s a $600 million increase. And over the next 5 years we intend to boost funding for these important activities by more than $5 billion. Five billion dollars. Now it’s up to Congress to do their job to appropriate the money.

We are fully funding Stockpile Management to increase the reliability, safety and security of our nuclear stockpile, to reduce the likelihood that we might resume underground testing, to achieve reductions in the future size of the stockpile, and to reduce the risk of accidental detonation as well as the risk of nuclear terrorism. Now I’m not saying anything new … all you have to do is read the 2010 defense bill that both chambers voted on and approved with bipartisan support and that President Obama signed. It’s the law.

I hope we can work together to make sure that Congress does its job, too. Members of Congress need to know – and this audience includes some of the best messengers possible that we must continue to attract, develop and retain the best scientists, engineers, and technicians who we need to maintain our nuclear deterrent, whatever its size.

The result will be a more credible deterrent. I want to emphasize, again, at this point, that RRW is dead and that it’s not coming back. But maintaining a credible deterrent means having a sound nuclear complex that can confidently and safely extend the lives of our existing weapons as required. Our military leaders responsible for the deterrent also support this sensible approach because, as they like to say, they do not need new nuclear weapons capabilities. They just want to be confident in what we have.

Another thing a credible deterrent does not depend on is testing. This Administration supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty not only because it serves our national interests, but because we possess sufficient knowledge and understanding on how our nuclear weapons work. We simply don’t need to test to maintain our deterrent. As I said, by smartly managing our nuclear stockpile, we can move forward on other parts of the President’s nuclear agenda. We can seek Senate ratification of CTBT.

Let me return for a moment to the role of nuclear weapons in our defense posture. While nuclear weapons have a clear role, our deterrent extends beyond nuclear weapons. It includes developing better and more effective missile defense systems and strategies. It includes bolstering our conventional forces’ interoperability, their precision, and their reach. Our improving conventional capabilities make it possible to reduce our reliance on nuclear weapons for some targets and missions. As our conventional weapons have become more precise, we do not have to cling to nuclear weapons to accomplish our objectives.

Our military men and women operating on battlefields strive every day to reduce collateral damage and prevent the loss of innocent lives. Our strategic planners should be guided by the same goals and seek alternatives to nuclear weapons to hold certain targets at risk. That does not mean, as some suggest, that we should explore smaller yield or “more-usable” nuclear weapons or anything of the sort. A nuclear weapon, no matter what its yield, is still a nuclear weapon. The firewall between nuclear and conventional weapons must remain bold, not blurred. We are not in the business of seeking new nuclear capabilities. They are not needed to preserve a strong, credible deterrent.

Let me close as I began just so that I’m clear. This Administration will work toward a world without nuclear weapons and we will continue to maintain a safe, secure, and effective deterrent as we proceed toward that goal. It’s a pleasure to be here again today. I know that Amb. Kislyak is going to be an enjoyable speaker. I think you very much for your attention and I’m happy to try to answer any questions that you might have.