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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 38, June 1999

US Congressional Confirmation Hearings: John Holum

Prepared statement by John Holum, nominee for Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 28 June 1999

"I was last here for confirmation purposes in the fall of 1993, as the President's nominee for a position that no longer exists, director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, or ACDA. ACDA went out of existence on 1 April.

It is no secret...that I had serious reservations about this restructuring. Indeed, when it was raised in 1995, I fought it. But I hope it is also no secret that I agreed to reorganization in 1997, and that I am doing everything possible to make it work. Further, I am convinced that our reorganization plan, diligently implemented, will make us more effective than we otherwise would have been in combating proliferation, reducing arms, and advancing key political-military missions.

That is true in considerable part because Secretary Albright has been determined to protect within the State Department the central qualities that argued for an independent agency. So our plan includes, for example, the means to insulate our verification and compliance judgments from competing pressures. It includes the means for unvarnished views on matters such as nonproliferation policy and performance to be aired interagency, and taken to the highest levels, even to the President of the United States.

At ACDA, it was my privilege to lead a remarkably skilled, resourceful and dedicated group of people - tough negotiators, exceptional scientists, sharp-eyed implementers and analysts, deeply knowledgeable attorneys, committed practitioners of all the disciplines we apply in arms control and nonproliferation. Today, as I was confident they would, those professionals are shining in a new environment, along with their old colleagues from across the building. Now they carry with them not only their superb personal attributes, but the institutional authority of the Department of State.

One reason I seek confirmation is to have a part in fulfilling the promise of reorganization. In particular, we need to ensure the State Department's capacity to welcome, employ and advance this distinct set of backgrounds, skills and functions - and to set in place ways of operating that will make integration a success not just for the next 20 months, but for the next 20 years.

Second, I want to say a few words about how I see our mission. Today the danger of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, coupled with advanced delivery systems, is more advanced and immediate than ever before. Cold war disciplines are gone. Technology is more widely available. The likelihood of direct WMD threats to our own country, as well as to our forces and friends abroad, continues to grow. That means we need to use every tool to reduce these threats:

  • Intelligence assets and investigative agencies are essential - including the sensors needed to monitor compliance with agreements, which Chairman Helms and I have worked in parallel to maintain, and also highly-leveraged monitoring and investigative capabilities of agencies like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
  • Continued efforts to reduce strategic nuclear arms are essential both in their own right and as leverage for a parallel commitment to nonproliferation from others.
  • Strong global legal regimes, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention, not because every country will comply, but because they provide a basis for penalizing offenders - and perhaps most importantly, because they include binding legal commitments against helping anyone else acquire these weapons.
  • These are bolstered by common supplier export controls on enabling technologies. The Missile Technology Control Regime, which is especially important because there is no global 'demand side' regime under which countries forego the right to build missiles.
  • Sanctions are important. Multilateral ones are most effective, but we also act unilaterally when necessary for example, against Russian entities assisting Iran's nuclear and missile ambitions.
  • We also need positive incentives - for example, the assistance we provide Russia to safeguard and ultimately dispose of special nuclear materials.
  • All these elements need to be combined in country-specific diplomatic strategies - applied through working-level demarches, or vigorous interventions by the Secretary of State and even the President, and all levels in between.
My efforts as a member of the administration have been focused mainly on strengthening these tools - protecting verification assets; defining an approach to further strategic arms reductions; bolstering existing regimes such as a permanent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, enhanced safeguards, and the Chemical Weapons Convention; negotiating new regimes such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or a Biological Weapons Convention compliance protocol - and then applying them systematically to reduce weapons of mass destruction and challenge their spread to other states.

If confirmed I would continue on these fronts. They have contributed mightily to our security. Even when they do not fully succeed, they still reduce nuclear dangers, limit the temptation to others, delay proliferators' efforts, narrow their choices, channel and confine the potential threat.

But arms controllers must also recognize our discipline's limits, and be prepared to integrate arms control with defense planning. In light of new estimates on the ballistic missile threat, in particular from North Korea and Iran, National Missile Defense, or NMD, is now closer to becoming another integral part of our strategy against proliferation. Though no NMD deployment decision has been made, this summer the US will begin discussions with Russia of how to adapt the ABM Treaty to the extent needed to accommodate a limited National Missile Defense against rogue states, as we also continue discussions on possible approaches to START III.

This reflects the proposition that I have long advocated, that arms control is a national security mission, not the opposite of defense but part of a continuum, and not the enemy of measured defenses to respond to real threats. ..."

Source: Text - Holum outlines arms control concerns before Senate panel, United States Information Service, 28 June.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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