Ellen Tauscher
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Washington, DC
May 19, 2010

As prepared

General Meigs, thanks so much for your introduction. Thanks so much for your patriotism and your passion. I am honored to be with you today.

I want to congratulate General Boyd on the award that he’s receiving this evening. And what a great event that General Meigs has put together with Tom Brokaw and General David Petraeus. Congratulations to all of you.

Nearly 15 years ago, as a small child, I moved to California and joined BENS because I agreed with its philosophy that members from both parties could work to develop a strong, effective and affordable national security policy. That’s what I tried to do in Congress and I have tried to bring that same sensibility to the State Department.

Business Executives for National Security has been – and remains – at the forefront of the debates and direction of our national security policy. And, from where I sit today, I am glad that it is.

It should have been obvious – a no-brainer really – that in the early 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union that we needed to move quickly to secure fissile material and dismantle nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Republics.

BENS played a leading role in that effort by working with our government to lock down unsecured nuclear stockpiles – showing the Pentagon how they could get the job done for less than a penny on the defense dollar. As a member of Congress, I took no task more seriously than securing funding for our nation’s cooperative threat reduction programs.

Thanks to you, thanks to Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, and because President Obama is so passionate about this issue, we continue to make progress toward his goal of securing all fissile material over the next four years.

I’d like to use my time today to spell out what we have accomplished, what remains to be done on the arms control front and how the President’s agenda is designed to create a safer and more stable world.

Last year, President Obama delivered a major speech in Prague setting forth a bold and ambitious agenda to achieve the peace and security of the world without nuclear weapons.

He said that this would take patience and persistence. He said it might not happen in his lifetime. And he said that as long as nuclear weapons existed we would maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.

The goal of Global Zero is important. But it’s the concrete steps we take along the road to a nuclear free world that are perhaps more important. Those steps will make us stronger, safer and more secure.

In the President’s speech in Prague, he put forward six ambitious and bold goals. We have advanced or accomplished half of those goals in the past eight weeks. Let me describe those.

In early April, President Medvedev and President Obama signed the New START Treaty. As you might know, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen testified yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All three spoke eloquently on behalf of the treaty and made the case about why it is so important.

I spent some time as part of our team negotiating this Treaty. This treaty will enhance our security by establishing verifiable limits on Russia’s strategic weapons. And it does not limit our flexibility to deploy our strategic forces as we think best or constrain our ability to develop and deploy effective missile defenses.

The treaty has helped rebuild a relationship with Russia that was in trouble. The United States and Russia don’t agree on everything. As I told the State Department press corps last month, we’re not “BFFs,” but we’re talking to each other rather than past each other on some very tough issues.

As Secretary Gates has pointed out, every previous President to face this choice has always found that the United States is better off with a treaty than without one, and the U.S. Senate has always agreed with overwhelming, bipartisan votes. The Senate approved the START Treaty and the Moscow Treaty by a 93 to 6 votes and 95 to 0 vote, respectively.

If you want a concise understanding of why this Treaty is important for our national security, please read Secretary Gates’ op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week [May 13].

I hope, that after the Senate examines the New START Treaty, that we get a similar bipartisan super-majority. The political atmosphere may be toxic. As Senator Kerry said a few weeks ago, 68 could be the new 84 in 2010. That would be unfortunate.

We need to reshape the political dynamic so that foreign policy and national security are too important for petty partisanship. Getting strong support for New START is a way to regain the high road.

A few days before the two presidents signed the New START Treaty, President Obama issued the Nuclear Posture Review, which set forth a forward-leaning strategy to reduce the roles and numbers of nuclear weapons in the 21st century. The following week, President Obama hosted 46 world leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit. This was not just a feel good conference. Countries that were invited had to show up with “housewarming gifts” – they had to come with concrete actions in hand to secure fissile material. The conference ended with a detailed and thorough work plan to secure and eliminate enriched uranium and plutonium. And South Korea has stepped up to host a follow-up conference in 2012.

The Obama Administration is also committed to ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to starting multilateral negotiations on a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty.

Earlier this month, we took another step to make the United States safer, stronger and more secure at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. All that you might remember from the Conference is that Iran’s president made the outlandish accusation that Osama Bin Laden is in the United States. But the United States has taken the conference very seriously.

We have made it clear to the world that we are doing our part to uphold our obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In the history of arms control, making public the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile has been contentious. But two weeks ago, Secretary Clinton announced the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile and the number dismantled since 1991 because it helps show the progress that we have made in reducing our nuclear arsenal. Now, Russia is considering following our lead.

We also took three additional steps. First, Secretary Clinton, as the head of the United States delegation at the Review Conference, pledged $50 million in support for a new IAEA program to spread the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy.

Second, she announced that our government would seek Senate ratification for our participation in existing nuclear-weapons-free-zone agreements among the nations of Africa and the South Pacific.

Finally, Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the United States longstanding policy to support efforts to realize a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Of course, this cannot be done without a lasting and just peace between Israel and its neighbors.

When the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995, the parties made a commitment to support a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction. We are working with the countries in that region and the other nuclear weapons states to develop practical steps toward implementation of a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction for consideration now underway at the Review Conference.

We are encouraging the parties at the Review Conference to seize this opportunity to take a significant step toward prevention of proliferation in the Middle East.

Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is at the heart of the president’s agenda. And we hope to convene a super-majority at the Review Conference and beyond. We hope we can bring together more than 150 countries to take steps to strengthen our nonproliferation efforts and isolate those uncooperative outliers, like Iran and North Korea.

So when you look at the Obama Administration’s entire arms control and nonproliferation agenda – New START, the NPR, the Nuclear Security Summit, stockpile transparency – we have made a lasting difference.

The President’s policy choices will increase stability and security and make us stronger and safer. They will reduce the chances of terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon or nuclear material. And they will reduce the risk of misunderstandings and miscalculation.

I want to leave you with a few thoughts because I know that things can sometimes look bleak on the nonproliferation front.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970 when more than forty states signed onto the Treaty. In the 40 years that have passed, almost 190 states have become party to this Treaty.

Since then, on the disarmament front, the United States and Russia have made significant reductions in our nuclear arsenals.

Since the height of the Cold War, the United States alone has dismantled more than 13,000 nuclear weapons.

The NPT has established a norm that has helped persuade Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and South Africa – and others – to cease pursuing nuclear weapons or give them up altogether.

I know arms control is not at the forefront of our minds as it was during the Cold War. Secretary Clinton even answered a question from a reporter about whether Americans’ eyes glazed over on the topic of arms control.

I know that won’t happen here, nor should it. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Secretary Gates have all painted chilling pictures of what would happen if terrorists acquired nuclear material or a nuclear weapon. Even if the relationship between the United States and Russia does not generate the interest that it once did, a terrorist with a bomb does. That’s why the President is pursuing this agenda with such passion and persistence.

I thank you for your passion and your persistence and I’ll be glad to take a few questions.