August 21, 2019

Warren Leads Call in the Senate to Ban Low-Yield Nuclear Missiles Deployment and Extend New START Treaty in Final Defense Authorization Bill

House-Passed Provisions in NDAA Would Maintain Our Strong Nuclear Position and Prevent Arms Race

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with 17 of her Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) 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.

"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 Senator Warren in sending the letter were Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Senator Warren has been a leader in Congress fighting to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles around the world and reform the policies governing their use. She:

  • Introduced the No First Use Act with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) to establish in law that it is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first.
  • Introduced the bipartisan Upholding America's Nuclear Commitments Act of 2017 with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) to restrict the development of a new nuclear-capable intermediate-range missile.
  • Together with Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered an amendment to the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to ensure that Congress continues to have an oversight role in authorizing the development of new or modified nuclear weapons.
    • The Senator discussed the importance of this amendment in a June 2018 speech on the Senate floor.
  • Led 26 of her Senate colleagues in reiterating support for continued arms control negotiations following the Trump Administration's decision to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the INF Treaty.
  • Co-sponsored the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017, a bill to require congressional authorization or a declaration of war before a nuclear strike could be launched.
  • Introduced the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2018 with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) to prohibit funding for missiles in violation of the INF Treaty and to stop the United States from entering into a 21st Century nuclear arms race.
  • Led 15 of her Senate colleagues in urging President Trump to reconsider his Nuclear Posture Review policies to develop new nuclear weapons and lower the threshold for their use.
  • Led 15 of her Senate colleagues in calling on President Donald Trump to reconsider policies outlined in a leaked draft of its Nuclear Posture Review that would lead to the development of new nuclear weapons and reintroduction of Cold War-era weapons systems that would be unnecessary and destabilizing.
  • Introduced the Save Arms Control and Verification Efforts (SAVE) Act with Senator Markey to preserve New START, the only remaining arms control treaty capping Russia's most dangerous nuclear weapons.