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Strategic Posture Commission Report

An Analysis by Jill Parillo

The final report on the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States will be released Wednesday, May 6. The Commission, made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, was unable to reach a consensus on findings and recommendations that will help advance the goals President Obama laid out in his speech in Prague on April 5. Most notably, the President said:

The United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons...As a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon; the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

Rather than offering suggestions on how the Obama Administration could start taking these steps, the Nuclear Posture Commission reported that "conditions that might make possible the global elimination of nuclear weapons are not present today." Instead the Commission offered steps to "reduce nuclear dangers," while still maintaining a reliable deterrent.

President Obama is determined to go far beyond what this report recommended in order to create a safer America and end the spread and production of new nuclear weapons. President Obama also said in Prague; "to achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty." The Commission report only stated that, "the Commission has no agreed position on whether ratification of the CTBT should proceed."

PSR supports direct negotiations with Russia to replace the expiring Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in December 2009. A new treaty that verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russia arsenals to 1,000 total nuclear weapons in the near term will move both nations toward a world free of nuclear weapons. President Obama met with Russian President Medvedev on April 1, 2009, and the two leaders released a joint statement saying that they would "demonstrate leadership in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world, while recognizing that this long-term goal will require a new emphasis on arms control and conflict resolution measures, and their full implementation by all concerned nations."

Commissioners again fell short in providing guidance to meet the goals President Obama set with President Medvedev. The report claims support for a"follow-on treaty to replace START before it expired at the end of the year," but panel members doubted that much more was not possible in the very near term, since "follow-on treaties entailing deeper reductions would require finding a way of dealing with very difficult problems."

PSR will continue to support the steps President Obama laid out in Prague to meet his goal of a world free of nuclear weapons:

  • the U.S. will seek a new treaty to verifiably end the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons
  • start a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years
  • hold a global summit on nuclear security that the U.S. will host in the next year

President Obama concluding remarks on April 5 seem to have presupposed the findings of the commission’s report:

"There are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it's worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve. But make no mistake: We know where that road leads... Let us bridge our divisions, build upon our hopes, accept our responsibility to leave this world more prosperous and more peaceful than we found it. Together we can do it."

Physicians for Social Responsibility works to protect human life from the gravest threats to health and survival. Guided by the expertise and public health, PSR was founded in 1961 to address the escalating cold war. Jill Parillo serves as the deputy director for security programs at PSR. She can be reached at 202-302-7609 or

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