Floor Statement Opposing Sessions Amendment on The Trident Submarine
MR. REED. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the amendment proposed by the Senator from Alabama. The premise advanced by the Senator from Alabama is that we have such a robust relationship with other nuclear powers, such as Russia, that it would be easy to coordinate this; there would be no mistaking a launch of a conventional missile from a Trident submarine. But I think that is contradicted by what the Russians themselves say. General Cartright went out and met his counterpart, General Baluyevsky, the chief of the Russian general staff, and tried to talk to him about these threats of terrorists needing to strike at long distance. And General Baluyevsky said this could be a costly move which not only won't guarantee his destruction--referring to Bin Laden--but could provide an irreversible response from a nuclear-armed state which can't determine what warhead is fitted on the missile. That is the strong support, constant communication with Russia that we have today, which could easily discern and disseminate information about a potential launch of a conventional weapon from a Trident platform. The Trident submarine contains missiles which are all armed with nuclear weapons. They are part of our strategic triad -- probably the most secure part of our triad. And the practical problem for anyone in the world is to determine, if we shoot one of these missiles at them, is it a conventional warhead or is it a nuclear warhead? If anyone believes they have nuclear weapons and are being attacked by a nuclear device, I think there is a strong fear, on my part at least, that they would retaliate before they could ever verify what was going on. Another aspect of this whole proposal is that it is premised on the fact that we would only have minutes or so to strike a target. But I think you have to ask yourself, reasonably and realistically, if that is the case, how do we know the target is so dangerous? I presume, in terms of developing our intelligence sources, we first have a suspicion, then we have information, we go out and verify it, and in that process I would assume and would hope that our national security officials would begin to move assets into the area which could conduct a strike with precision weapons. Again, I think the record of the intelligence community, frankly, in terms of determining targets is one that is spotty at best. That is because of the difficulty of doing this type of intelligence work. Recall now the first blow in the Iraq war was a precision strike to decapitate their leadership by killing, essentially, Saddam Hussein. It turned out he wasn't there. Think about if that type of intelligence prompted the firing of a Trident missile, and a nuclear power was unsure that it was not a nuclear weapon or a conventional weapon and retaliate. I think we are going down a very dangerous path. Let me also suggest something else, which is inherent in the argument of Senator Sessions. I guess the question would be, would we wait, if it is so dangerous and so insistent to act so quickly, would we wait to ensure that the other parties understood--the other parties being Russia or China--that this was a nonnuclear launch? How much time would that take? How could we be sure that we have effectively communicated it? None of this has been investigated. The comments by the Russian chief of general staff suggests that. So I think we have an obligation to look carefully at this issue before we go down this path. That is essentially what was agreed to in the Defense authorization bill. The Defense authorization bill says no funds can be expended for R&D until 30 days after a report, which is specified in the committee legislation, is given to the relevant committees in the Senate and the House. If they have all these answers right now, and they are compelling and persuasive, I presume it could be delivered within a few days, starting the 30-day period to be told or to expire. I think this is a prudent thing to do. To go ahead and avoid this report not only contradicts the sentiment on the authorizing committee, but also I think it disregards the difficult questions that have to be asked. Where is this instantaneous assured notification to others that this is a conventional weapon and not a nuclear weapon? I think that question alone requires an evaluation. I hope in the disposition of this amendment we would let this report requirement stand, would let the committee do what they have essentially done -- roughly the same thing --allowing R&D funding to go forward pending reports of one kind or another. That is the prudent and appropriate thing to do. I hope we would do that. I yield the floor.