By DONNA CASSATA
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration insisted on Thursday that it is modernizing the nation’s nuclear arsenal in the face of withering criticism from Republicans that it is moving slowly in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s push for further reductions.
Officials from the Energy, Defense and State departments provided the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with an update on the implementation of the U.S.-Russian pact, commonly known as the New START treaty, reducing both sides’ nuclear warhead limit to 1,550.
The Senate ratified the treaty in December 2010 after weeks of contentious debate and assurances from Obama that he would provide robust funding to modernize the remaining nuclear weapons. Republicans said that 1½ years later they see little evidence of any commitment.
“It seems like things are being slow-walked,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “And I almost wonder whether as the president is announcing further reductions, the reason that much of the modernization is being slow-walked is that there’s no intention to follow through, and they actually hope to come up with more reductions so that much of the modernization that we’re talking about does not have to take place.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., alluded to Obama’s comments in March when an open microphone caught him telling then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more room to negotiate after the November election.
“I really need to understand the president’s remarks to Dmitry Medvedev a few months ago when behind his hand when he thought the mike was off he said, ‘Let us get this election behind us and I’ll be more flexible.’ I understood that statement to be in reference to missile defense, but I don’t totally know,” Isakson said. “But we cannot afford to be in the business we are in on this committee or as a country and be counting on one representation for meeting commitments while on the other hand we’re seeing a wink and a nod to the other side.”
Thomas D’Agostino of the Energy Department told the panel that the administration is making significant investments, working to improve 80 percent of the stockpile. He also said
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