By Major General Paul D. Eaton

Through repeated tours at Fort Benning and eventually serving as its Commanding General, I got to know Georgia and Georgians pretty well. First, among the places I have served, my neighbors around Fort Benning display a pride, patriotism and national security awareness that helped me in my mission at the Home of the Infantry. And they are natural allies to those of us in uniform who devote our careers to America’s national security, our No. 1 priority while on active duty, and in retirement.

Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson will soon have the opportunity to protect America’s national security by voting in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, which would further a process started by Ronald Reagan to verifiably reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,550 warheads and 700 deployed launchers. The New START Treaty also ensures strategic stability by reinstating strong verification regime that allow U.S. inspectors, for the first time, to peer inside Russian missiles and track Russian warheads with unique identifiers.

As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has written, “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America's military leadership -- to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent.”

Recently, I joined a group of retired flag officers, including Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, former commander of all ICBM units and Deputy Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in expressing my support for the New START accord. Like Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen, we understand that the New START Treaty is essential to our national security.

For over 40 years, the U.S. has pursued strategic stability through an arms control process that has been vigorously supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. The New START Treaty both continues these established principles and tailors them to meet the security needs of the 21st century. In today's security environment we must protect against the dual threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. With the combined nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia accounting for nearly 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, the first step to nuclear security begins with New START.

The original START agreement expired on December 5, 2009, leaving the U.S., at present, without the intrusive inspection and verification regime that allowed U.S. inspectors to monitor Russia’s nuclear arsenal for so many years. The U.S. Senate should work to reinstate these verification provisions by ratifying the New START accord and getting U.S. boots back on the ground as soon as possible. Without these measures, our Strategic Command loses its access to Russia’s nuclear forces and the predictability between the world’s two largest nuclear powers is called into question.

Some have argued that we’ve not yet fully explored the treaty. That’s not true. The Senate has held an extensive series of hearings and meticulously reviewed the treaty and its accompanying documents. Throughout this process, serious national security experts of all ideological stripes have voiced strong support for the New START treaty. James Schlesinger, Brent Scowcroft, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Stephen Hadley, Colin Powell and scores of others have all expressed strong support for this treaty.

Senators Chambliss and Isakson would do well to recognize that when they cast their vote for New START, they will be faced with a choice: strengthen our national security with a vote in favor of the New START Treaty, or choose to ignore the advice of our nation’s most trusted voices and expose the nation to greater risk due to loss of verification of Russian behaviors and intent. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor, previously warned Senators that a rejection of this treaty would throw our nuclear policies into a “state of chaos.”

The support for New START from our military is clear. The national security benefits of New START are clear. So is the choice. Senators Chambliss and Isakson must support the New START Treaty and choose a safer Georgia and a stronger America.
Major General Eaton served more than 30 years in the United States Army, including combat and post-combat assignments in Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia and command of the Army Infantry Training Center in Fort Benning, GA.
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