This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The single most important function of the federal government is to provide for the nation's security. Given this core value, when a policy has the unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of Defense and other key Pentagon leaders, it demands our respect and sincere consideration. Such is the case with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
There are clear security benefits to ratifying New START and clear risks in failing to do so. For more than 20 years the United States has benefited from on-site inspections, but today we do not. Upon the ratification of New START, those inspections will resume.
Failure to ratify the New START treaty would essentially blind us and effectively forfeit our ability to keep tabs on Russia's nuclear arsenal something very much in our security interest.
In addition to renewing our monitoring of Russia's weapons, however, the New START treaty will also verifiably reduce each country's nuclear arsenals to 1,500 warheads and 700 launchers.
Verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian arsenals boosts our security by resuming the process begun by President Reagan of eliminating the deadly legacy of the Cold War.
Further reductions are required to better adapt to the changing security challenges of the 21st century: proliferation and the threat of nuclear terrorism.
While modest, the reductions in the treaty are nonetheless seen as a necessary first step that must be taken before moving on to other important issues, like addressing Russia's large arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons and ratifying a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The signing of New START has cemented U.S. leadership on nonproliferation issues, strengthening efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and building support for sanctions aimed at ending Iran's nuclear program.
Since the treaty was signed, Russia has now joined the United States in a Security Council vote on sanctions and canceled weapons sales to Iran.
With the benefits of ratification so clear and the risks of failing to ratify so destabilizing to national security, it's no wonder that the treaty enjoys the strong support of Republican security heavyweights, including former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger and highly respected Utahns like former national security adviser Gen. Brent Scowcroft and former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn.
Indeed, in a recent op-ed in favor of New START in The Washington Times, Scowcroft and Garn argued that regaining transparency and intelligence, the result of 30 years of U.S.–Soviet and U.S.–Russian arms control negotiations, is the most critical reason for the Senate to promptly ratify New START. As Scowcroft and Garn so persuasively argued, "Transparency enhances predictability; predictability enhances stability. Without transparency, distrust and suspicion grow."
While these may be the views of retired national security leaders, they are equally held by those currently charged with our national defense. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared: "[T]he New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America's military leadership, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent."
When the Senate returns to Washington to complete its work in November, it's going to have a lot on its plate. Nevertheless, ratifying New START, a treaty with the overwhelming support of our military, should be at the top of the list.
It is, in essence, a nonpartisan treaty.
Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Bob Bennett would serve Utah well by speaking up for our national security and urging their colleagues to schedule a vote before the year is out.
Mark Shurtleff is Utah's attorney general. Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, represents District 7 in the Utah House of Representatives.