The treaty makes modest reductions to the U.S. deployed strategic arsenal, but more importantly it creates stability between the United States and Russia and allows the American military to inspect the Russian arsenal.

Two controversial parts of the NDAA, sections 1055 and 1056, seek to constrain the ability of the President and military leaders to make strategic choices for our nuclear strategy.

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Section 1055 would prevent the reductions mandated under the New START treaty from taking place until the administration certifies that nuclear modernization is taking place. It would also withhold funds for the reduction of non-deployed and non-strategic nuclear weapons until two major facilities in the nuclear weapons complex are completed and operating, which will not take place until the middle of the next decade.

Section 1056 makes any nuclear arsenal reductions below the New START treaty ceiling of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads contingent on assurances to Congress that the president will not change America’s nuclear targeting strategy. The formulation of this strategy has been a prerogative of every President since the end of World War II, so this provision amounts to a significant rewriting of the rules.

Nuclear targeting strategy is a serious matter. It should be carried out by senior leaders based on the nature of threats facing our country, not based on arbitrary restrictions in highly politicized legislation.

Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) introduced the legislation responsible for these provisions on the grounds that “[w]e need to act now, to codify the promised ‘To-Do-List’ for modernizing our nuclear forces.” 

This is not the case. They are unnecessary, and run counter to the interests of American national security.

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The global strategic environment is changing rapidly, and the American military needs the ability to shift its resources to meet emerging threats. If the military decides it needs more troops, better weapons, different types of infrastructure and fewer nuclear bomb within our New START treaty obligations, why should Congress impose arbitrary limitations on its ability to make these choices?

The House bill locks in the status quo at a time when the status quo is evaporating. The American military needs the flexibility to determine which nuclear systems it wants or does not want. The controversial portions of the NDAA reduce that flexibility, and hamstring American military planners.

The Resolution of Advice and Consent to Ratification for the New START treaty expresses a “commitment to providing the resources” to maintain and modernize the American nuclear weapons complex. The country is therefore already obligated to make the necessary investments in our nuclear arsenal, and there is bipartisan support for doing so.

The United States needs to move quickly to meet the threats of the modern age. We must modernize our nuclear deterrent, maintain the nuclear weapons complex, and restructure and appropriately size our nuclear forces all at once. The country does not need political roadblocks to impede these critical tasks.

Because of the troubling flaws with the bill passed in the House, the president’s senior advisors have recommended vetoing the final bill if they are included.

The United States possesses a large and capable nuclear deterrent, and the New START treaty is consistent with the maintenance of that deterrent. The Senate did its job admirably in giving its advice and consent for the ratification of the treaty, and attempts to revisit the treaty for partisan gain are dangerous and unnecessary.

American policymakers need flexibility in structuring U.S. nuclear forces and responding to emerging threats around the world. The Senate should strip unnecessary limitations on our strategic flexibility from its version of the bill.

Lt. Gen. John Castellaw is a member of the Consensus for American Security. During his 36-year career he held several commands, including Chief of Staff of U.S. Central Command. His last assignments on active duty were in the Pentagon where he oversaw Marine Aviation and the Marine Corps budget creation and execution.