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New START Awards

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Pentagon, Friday, February 18, 2011

I am pleased to be here today to honor these remarkable men and women.  The success of New START means a great deal to me personally – I first became involved in our arms control efforts with the Russians for  40 years ago this year.  Let me tell you, while the process for New START may have seemed endless, I recall that it took us nearly a decade to sign the first START treaty.  Back in 1982, when we began negotiating START I, President Reagan said that arms reduction was “one of the most important tasks of our age” and that the United States and the USSR must consider themselves “trustees for humanity in the great task of ending the menace of nuclear arsenals”.

Reagan started this process because he believed we could step away from the prospect of mutual assured destruction and a wasteful, dangerous arms race, and I think that belief has been vindicated.  New START brings us:

  • Unprecedented clarity regarding Russian strategic nuclear capabilities and intentions;
  • Reduced risk of proliferation, accident, miscalculation and other hazards; and
  • A productive, evolving relationship with Moscow that has proven valuable in addressing critical security challenges such as Iran and Afghanistan.

This achievement would have been impossible without the smoothly integrated efforts of dedicated public servants here at Defense – from the public affairs team that crafted and implemented the communications strategy, to the members of the Joint Staff, Policy, AT&L, Legislative Affairs, and General Counsel – all working in conjunction with our interagency partners.  In my long career in public service, I’ve seen important initiatives go down in flames due to competing egos, turf battles, and ideological rigidity.  Your seamless teamwork and dedication to the mission is the reason for our success.

You persisted through a complex drafting process, grueling negotiations, and a multi-pronged public diplomacy and communications effort.  And hen the time for ratification came, we did not, to be frank, face a Senate eagerly awaiting the chance to sign on.  At several points along the way when conventional wisdom declared New START dead – as you answered the astonishing 1500 Senate queries Michele mentioned, and gave round after round of testimony on the Hill – this team’s tenacity and cohesiveness kept the effort alive.   You made and remade a compelling case to decision makers on both sides of the aisle that this treaty was absolutely necessary to the security of the United States.

Both as individuals and as representatives of the various teams, I want to acknowledge several of our honorees by name.  All were involved in every step of the process.

  • Ted Warner, my office’s lead in this process - and I won't tell you how many decades ago Ted and I started working togehter - who among many other key tasks negotiated the treaty’s critical inspection protocol,
  • Jim Miller, who in DOD Policy synthesized multiple streams of information needed by our negotiators, and who also led this department’s legislative affairs and public diplomacy efforts,
  • George Look, who coordinated the White House/National Security Council piece of this effort and played an essential role in drafting our negotiating position; and
  • Mike Elliot, who has already been recognized by Chairman Mullen for his sterling work as the representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I wanted to take this opportunity to personally thank Mike and the team he’s here to represent today.  Because of their coordination efforts, the final treaty enjoyed the unanimous support of the Chairman and the service chiefs.

To conclude – and you’ve all heard this from me before, but it bears repeating – the United States is far better off with this treaty then without it.  All of you that we recognize here today have made a significant and lasting contribution to the safety of the United States, and we honor your achievement.

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