This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In July, we celebrate our nation's independence and the hardy pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley. While celebrating, we should also be looking to secure the future of both our nation and our state.
Our nation faces security challenges that we must creatively work together to overcome. Chief among them is the threat posed by the spread and potential use of nuclear weapons. Republican and Democratic leaders must use every tool available to prevent the ultimate nuclear catastrophe.
In 1999, the U.S. Senate voted against ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear test explosions.
Since then, much has changed. As the recently released National Academy of the Sciences report on the Test Ban Treaty makes clear, significant technical advances have addressed earlier concerns regarding the continuing security and reliability of our nuclear stockpile.
Today, after more than a decade of delay, we have reached the time to renew the discussion regarding the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which 157 countries have ratified.
The United States is among a handful of outlier nations joining China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, Iran and North Korea that have not yet taken that step and which must ratify the treaty before it can go into effect. The CTBT would establish a legally binding prohibition against all nuclear weapons-test explosions, create a global monitoring network, and the option of on-site inspections to deter cheating.
In the years since the Treaty came before the Senate, many early critics have become staunch advocates, including former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and former National Security Adviser Gen. Brent Scowcroft.
Former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfried Hecker, another 1999 skeptic, stated recently that: "The single most important reason to ratify the CTBT is to stop other countries from improving their arsenals ... . We gain substantially more from limiting other countries than we lose by giving up testing."
The success of the federal Stockpile Stewardship Program has turned CTBT detractors into supporters. The program is responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of our nuclear weapons. It has shown that America can maintain the integrity of our nuclear arsenal without explosive nuclear testing.
In addition to domestic intelligence agencies, we can rely on a robust international verification system that was only emerging in 1999. A decade ago, there were only 20 international monitoring stations. Today, there are 280 facilities in more than 80 countries. When the CTBT enters into force, we will also have the option to pursue on-site inspections of suspicious events, which not only improves our ability to detect cheating, but deters cheating in the first place.
During the Cold War, our major challenge was deterring the Soviet Union. With the Cold War over, America has maintained our formidable deterrent without needing nuclear testing. It is clear that deterring future nuclear threats requires strengthening the barriers which prevent the further proliferation of these weapons to additional states or terrorists. The CTBT is a key part of this network.
In 1999, the Senate expressed concern about erring on the side of taking too little time to deliberate the CTBT. Today, the concern is that we may err on the side of taking too long. The time has come for our leaders to carefully consider and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Jennifer Seelig, a Democrat, has represented District 23 in the Utah House of Representatives since 2006. Ryan D. Wilcox, a Republican, has represented District 7 in the Utah House of Representatives since 2009.