Washington: The Obama administration is offering to add billions of dollars in funding for the US nuclear stockpile in a deal that it hopes will win enough Republican support for approval of a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia.
White House officials outlined the proposal to Republican Sen Jon Kyl who is seen as the key to winning enough support to ratify the New START treaty, according to a congressional aide briefed on the proposal yesterday. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment.
The offer was for a boost of USD 4.1 billion in funding between 2012-2016 for the nuclear weapons complex that will go to maintaining and modernising the arsenal and the laboratories that oversee that effort. Of that, USD 1 billion would cover a deficit in the pension fund for the agency in charge of the stockpile and laboratories.
The additional money comes on top of a boost of USD 10 million that the administration had already agreed to over 10 years.
"This is a huge increase," said Daryl Kimball, head of the private Arms Control Association. He noted that it is not certain that Congress will approve the funding, which will in any case have to be appropriated over time for each of the years in the proposal.
The administration is scrambling to get enough Republican support in the Senate to ratify the New START treaty before the Democrats` majority shrinks by six in January. In a sign of the urgency of the administration`s pitch, government officials travelled to Kyl`s home state of Arizona to brief him on the proposal, the aide said.
Officials also briefed Republican Senator Bob Corker.
The aide said that the administration has also conveyed to Republican lawmakers that its offer is contingent on passing the treaty before the end of the year and that Democratic support for the boost in funding would likely evaporate, if the treaty stalls.
Details of the proposal were made available to Senate staff, including aides on the Appropriations Committee yesterday.
It was not clear whether the offer had swayed Kyl and his office declined to comment.
The White House had no immediate comment on the offer.
The treaty would reduce the limit on strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would set up new procedures to allow both countries to inspect each other`s arsenals to verify compliance.