Monday, December 29, 2008

John Isaacs on Obama Admin Personnel and Nuclear Policies

The Center's Executive Director, John Isaacs, has a great update on incoming Obama Administration personnel and the implications on the direction of his nuclear policies, included below.

People looking for clues about the nuclear policies of the incoming Obama Administration tended to draw overly-broad implications from the big-dog appointments announced a few weeks ago: Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Robert Gates continuing as Secretary of Defense and General Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

It is the next level of appointments that will tell us more about the direction of Obama's nuclear policies.

While you were away (or still are) celebrating the holidays, the first key appointments below the cabinet-level have been made and the news is good.

Take the announcement of Dr. John Holdren as the President's Science Adviser. Holdren is a leading expert on nuclear arms issues.

A 1997 he chaired a National Academy of Sciences report entitled “The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy” that recommended reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear forces to 1,000 total warheads and exploring going below that number, taking nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert and adopting a no-first use policy.

In a 2005 Arms Control Today article, Dr. Holdren argued that the 1997 proposals were still relevant and recommended ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, moving to very deep reductions of nuclear weapons to a few hundred on each side, and trying "create the conditions that would make possible a global prohibition of nuclear weapons along the lines of those already in force against chemical and biological weapons."

James B. Steinberg, who has served in other government positions, has been named to the number two position at the Department of State. He too has long been involved in nuclear issues.

On January 1, 2008, he wrote "Washington must begin devaluing nuclear weapons."

In a November 2007 speech, he praised the Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn proposal for a world free of nuclear weapons and applauded some of their endorsed steps, including ratification of the test ban treaty, a fissile material cut-off treaty and a reopened debate on missile defenses.

In a 2006 OpEd, he suggested that the U.S.-India deal "will seriously undermine the longer-term effort to rein in the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons programs."

Antony Blinken, most recently staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been named Vice President-elect Joseph Biden's Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.

Blinken joined with Steinberg -- and a number of other authors who could well be appointed to key Obama Administration positions -- in a July 2008 Center for New American Security report that recommended: "The next president should reaffirm that America seeks a world free of nuclear weapons."

The report suggested a number of steps in that direction, including:

"The United States should propose to Moscow new negotiations that would reduce their respective nuclear inventory to 1,000 weapons of all ranges. The inspection and transparency provisions of existing arms control agreements that are due to expire in 2009 would be maintained. And remaining forces would end their reliance on hair-trigger alerts to ensure survivability. In addition, the United States should ratify the CTBT at the earliest practical opportunity and propose to negotiate a worldwide, verifiable ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes."

While there are many other key appointments to be made, these first appointments are a good start and presage significant progress on nuclear issues.

Click here for the full list of open key positions, including transition personnel.

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