United States Secretary of Defense


United States Secretary of Defense

Harry Truman once said that progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. In 1947 the opportunity presented itself to rebuild Europe after a terrible war, and George Marshall seized that opportunity. The result was the Marshall Plan, and it changed things for the better to make an important understatement.

In 1991, the opportunity presented itself to unbuild the Soviet Cold War nuclear weapon arsenal to prevent its dispersal and to forge cooperative ties with former enemies. Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar seized this opportunity, and the result was the Nunn- Lugar program and it is changing things for the better.

So far the Nunn-Lugar program has helped us to remove 2,600 warheads previously aimed at the United States. It has destroyed almost 600 launchers and bombers. Along the way, these projects have built a channel of trust and cooperation with the former Soviet Republics and in my mind (without any doubt) was the critical factor in leading the three of these nations Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to agree to become non-nuclear states.

I have seen what Nunn-Lugar can do with my own eyes. Last year I went to what was one of the largest, most modern ICBM sites in the world at Provomaysk which is in Ukraine. Today I have a picture on the wall in my office that shows me peering into that Soviet ICBM silo at Provomaysk. I could see the SS 24 inside the silo, but the business end was gone. The warheads had been removed the week before and sent to the factory for dismantlement, courtesy of the Nunn-Lugar program.

This was an ICBM whose ten warheads had been aimed at targets in the United States just weeks before. This is why we call the Nunn-Lugar program defense by other means.

Last fall a secret mission was completed called Project Sapphire. This also illustrates the potential threats that the Nunn-Lugar program can eliminate. We had been working on Nunn -Lugar projects with the government of Kazakhstan, and they approached us and asked us to do a favor: Could we take about 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium off their hands? This was enough uranium to make about 30 nuclear bombs, and the Kazaks were concerned (as were we) that it would somehow end up in Iran jumpstarting an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

In my job I face decisions every day which are hard to make. This was not one of them. Today all 600 kilograms of that material are now under guard at the Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee, where it is safe forever from terrorists and black marketeers and nuclear warheads.

This was historic in nonproliferation, and once again it was the Nunn-Lugar program in action. These stories about weapon dismantlement and the safeguarding of nuclear materials are compelling reasons why the Nunn-Lugar program is a very good investment of defense funds. By spending millions to eliminate nuclear weapons that can threaten us, we save billions in defending against them. These stories also pay tribute to the courageous and skillful leadership of Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar, and I am honored to be on the program with them today. How many people can say that they are personally and directly responsible for reducing the potential risk of nuclear annihilation?

Ironically, however, this program has run into some problems with Congress. Few question the wisdom of spending defense dollars to dismantle Soviet nuclear missiles. It is harder to make clear that dismantling missiles is not enough, and you have got to also deal with the massive infrastructure of launch facilities, missile offices, defense factories, skilled workers and nuclear scientists.

If you leave the people and facilities in place, you run the risk down the road that they could regenerate and reproduce the new weapons for a hostile regime abroad or for a regime at home if reform were to fail in Russia. A small portion of our Nunn-Lugar appropriations about 20 percent have gone toward reorienting nuclear scientists to nonmilitary research, to converting weapons plants to commercial production, and to decommissioning the former strategic Soviet rocket forces.

The government is not doing these things alone. The private sector, sensing an investment opportunity, is also playing a key role in this activity. A small amount of these Nunn-Lugar monies helped set up joint business ventures between American companies and former defense enterprises in the former Soviet Republics, and they are helping to reduce and reorient the Soviet nuclear weapons infrastructure. For example, we have just allocated $10 million in Nunn-Lugar funds to set up an American-Ukrainian business partnership to make prefabricated housing in Ukraine. The first rounds of production from this will help to provide housing for the former strategic rocket officers who manned and controlled the missiles in Ukraine.

I told you about my visit to Provomaysk. After I witnessed the silo and control facility there, I was hosted for a lunch by the Ukrainians defense minister and by the military leader of these strategic rocket forces. At that lunch they told me that the biggest impediment . . .[End of Tape ]

. . . the day after tomorrow, Saturday, I will be back at Provomaysk. We will be meeting again with the Ukrainian Minister of Defense and with the head of the Strategic Rocket Force. This time we will be conducting the ground-breaking ceremony for the new housing complex that is going in there. I will be going from there to the factory which used to build Soviet warships, and which is now making the prefabricated housing which is going into this project.

When that project is completed, this factory will go on to build prefabricated housing and to sell it commercially in Ukraine and Russia. This is a joint business partnership between an American company and an Ukrainian company.

The Nunn-Lugar funds are also being used to facilitate the formation of joint business ventures to convert excess weapons factories to commercial production in Russia and Ukraine somewhat along the model of this prefabrication partnership which I have just described to you. Getting these factories out of the weapons-making business does protect American security. Critics in the United States have charged that these conversion programs will have the effect of sustaining the Russian defense industry.

We not only have critics in the United States, but we have critics in Russia. The critics in Russia have charged that these programs are designed to cripple the Russian defense industry. On the one hand, critics are claiming that it is sustaining the defense industry; and on the other hand, they are claiming it is crippling.

Both sets of critics cannot be right; and indeed, neither of them is right. These projects exploit neither the United States nor Russia. On the contrary, they benefit both nations. They help to privatize the Russian economy, they reduce the potential for weapons to hostile regimes, and they help open new markets for American companies. This is a win-win program in the best sense of the word.

As you can tell, I believe in the Nunn-Lugar program. I am committed to it, and I will continue to fight for it.

I want to close with a quote from Augustus Hehrer, who wrote, "Half of the failures of this world arise from pulling in your horse as you are leaping." Over the past year the Nunn- Lugar program has taken off. It has leaped. We must not reign it in, in midleap. Thank you.

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