Tuesday, February 23, 2010


On February 18, 2010 Vice President Biden addressed the National Defense University in Washington, DC in the presence of Secretaries Gates (Defense) and Chu (Energy) and Undersecretary Ellen Tauscher.

The remarks were given following the recent release of the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review.

Biden's aim was to convince the American political Left and Right - and the world - that the administration's recent decision to heavily fund nuclear laboratories is both credible and coherent with its ambitious nonproliferation discourse.

What to Note:
1. The administration views new states proliferation as "the greatest threat facing America," one that could provoke regional destabilization and arms races. In order to stave of its own need to use nuclear and allow for deep reductions in the future, Washington seeks to combine the full range and power of its conventional warheads with adaptive missile defense while still pursuing Obama's Prague Agenda.

2. The role of nuclear weapons laboratories is key to Obama's overall strategy. The decision was made to boost funding for nuclear labs to $7 billion, up by more than a half of a billion dollars and amounting to a $5 billion increase over 5 years. The objective? To manage and guarantee the US arsenal without testing -- safekeeping today means easier dismantling tomorrow; r&d for new means of proliferation helps to track and monitor those seeking such advances.

3. The US seeks to implement its ambitious nonproliferation goals by rallying international consensus and bolstering the nonproliferation regime's cornerstone initiatives (NPT, CTBT, START, United Nations).

4. America is serious about pushing a fissile material ban, despite numerous past setbacks, and will vigorously aim to ratify the CTBT.

5. The Obama administration has an agenda heavy with nonproliferation action: the coming release of the US Nuclear Posture Review, ongoing START follow-up negotiations, April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, NPT Review Conference in May 2010.

While the promise to maintain America's military supremacy through conventional weaponry/missile defense may satisfy some, how will it persuade others to forgo their existing nuclear stocks or efforts to access nuclear when the alternative is the US's unmitigated conventional artillery? For certain nations with no conceivable recourse to even the milder register of American military might, how will this declaration by Biden incentivize them to step away from their current nuclear holdings or ambitions?

- Amy Greene

Click for Full Transcript of Biden's Speech (White House)