Nunn-lugar funding stays on track for a good year

Publish date: July 2, 1998

Written by: Thomas Jandl

Halfway through its annual budget cycle, the Cooperative Threat Reduction budget, commonly known as Nunn-Lugar funding, is poised for an increase over last year's levels. After some initial skirmishes, it appears the Nunn-Lugar and the related Energy Department Russian programs will receive (almost) full funding from the House and Senate.

Nunn-Lugar is responsible for funding arms reduction work in the former Soviet Union. It also pays for anti-proliferation projects such as safeguarding of storage facilities of nuclear materials in Russia. Under its arms reduction activities, Nunn-Lugar is also involved with managing spent nuclear fuel from dismantled submarines.

Nunn-Lugar funds have been subject to intense infighting in Congress virtually every year. Congressional budget hawks want to reduce the project’s funding to save money, defense hawks and anti-Russia lawmakers believe the money would be better spent by continuing a Cold War-style containment strategy rather than threat reduction.

In this context, analysts fear that the Russian Duma’s continuing refusal to ratify START II, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, will lend ammunition to the critics of cooperation between Moscow and Washington on disarmament, pushing for a stronger deterrent and missile defense instead. Russia is rapidly coming down to START levels, however, even without ratifying the treaty.

The Fiscal Year 1999 (starting October 1, 1998) budget request by the Clinton administration for Nunn-Lugar was $442.4 million. Despite the clouds hanging over the future, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee granted $440.4, the House $417.4 million. The two bills have to be reconciled in a conference committee between House and Senate. Traditionally, the Senate position has prevailed in matters relating to Nunn-Lugar.