Bush US-FSU non-proliferation budget is in, but will it be enough?

Publish date: May 13, 2002

Written by: Charles Digges

In a world more keenly aware of the threats of easily attainable radioactive materials than ever before, the Bush administration's 2003 budget request for non-proliferation and security projects in the Former Soviet Union is seen by many as modest when measured against the US President's apparently stalwart commitment to world security.

The administration’s overall 2003 funding request for these programs — which are led by the US Departments of Energy (DoE), Defence (DoD) and State — is $957 million, according to the Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council (RANSAC), who late last month released its analysis of the Bush non-proliferation budget request.

When compared to the regular congressional appropriation for these activates, the Bush request represents a modest increase of $149 million. This request, however, is approximately $57 million less than the total funding approved by congress in 2002 where post-Sept. 11 supplemental funding is included in the totals, the RANSAC report said.

The administration budget request is already passing through the hands of the House of Representative’s Armed Services Committee (HASC), which has proposed a number of corrections to accommodate administration requests for Homeland defence.

The bashful increases in the Bush non-proliferation request and the competing requests for Homeland defence would seem to reflect the US president’s ambivalence to funding many of these non-proliferation programs — particularly the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act (CTR), or Nunn-Lugar. In April, the administration, informed Moscow in a state department cable that it would not certify CTR and State Department non-proliferation programs in Russia — effectively grinding many of them to a halt.

At issue, said American officials, was Russia’s reluctance to admit to Soviet-era stocks of extremely lethal nerve gasses that, under CTR, are subject to destruction. Russia responded angrily that it had not breached the agreement.

The non-certification, as spelled out by the State Department cable, did not affect the millions of dollars of non-proliferation aid offered through the US Department of Energy (DoE). But CTR, which is run by the US Department of Defence (DoD), and the State Department, are thus far required by US law to receive yearly re-certification verifying the Russian “commitment” to fulfilling its treaty obligations.

As of last week, however, the US House of Representatives began discussing two bills that would give the US president power to waive the certification requirements for CTR and similar programs, if the funding is deemed important to US security, the Associated Press reported. It is doubtful, however, say State Department officials, that the waiver will be ready in time for the May 23-26 summit between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Funding request for DoE

On the whole, the DoE is requesting $1.13 billion for non-proliferation projects. But “Analysis” author Willaim Hoehn cautioned in an email interview that this figure corresponds to a number of non-proliferation activities, including many things that are not directly related to non-proliferation programs on the ground in Russia. For example, this budget item would fund activities related to US fissile material disposition, ensuring operational safety of Soviet reactors, and non-proliferation research and development in DoE labs.

The administration requested for DoE non-proliferation programs in Russia and FSU states, therefore, is approximately $420 million. This represents a slight increase over 2002 congressional appropriations — including supplemental requests — and about a 48 percent increase when those supplemental requests are excluded, the report said. However, this larger increase is somewhat deceiving because it includes $49 million in new funding for a project that has been transferred to the DoD’s CTR program, the report said.

Nonetheless, the report said that major budget increases are proposed for DoE efforts to dispose of excess plutonium in Russia, improve FSU export controls and dismantle nuclear warheads. The report also noted that programs designed to improve security over nuclear materials and naval warheads and to create peaceful employment for weapons scientists “were adequately funded compared to prior budgets, but not at a level equal to last year’s final appropriation.

Funding request for the DoD/CTR

Funding for DoD non-proliferation efforts also grew by about 4 percent to approximately $428 million, according to the RANSAC report. Nearly all of this funding — $417 million — is requested for CTR activities. CTR’s request for 2003, the report said, is up by approximately $16.5 million over last year’s request. This request, however, would have been much higher were it not for the transfer of a $46 million project to end Russian weapons-grade plutonium production to the DoE, said the report. Most of the major increases in CTR programs, the report said, are in Russian nuclear weapons transportation security, chemical weapons destruction, and biological weapons proliferation prevention.

Funding request for the state department

Requests for the State Department’s activities remained relatively stable when compared to 2002 appropriations before supplemental funding is considered: approximately $109 million proposed in 2003 versus $113 million provided in regular appropriations in 2002, the report said. The State Department’s Science and Technology Centre, biological weapons redirect, and export control and border security programs all received boosts in the supplemental appropriation, however, so the overall State Department funding for weapons of mass destruction funding activities in the FSU is down by $76 million, or 41 percent, from total funding provided in 2002.

It is not enough

Despite Bush’s eventual agreement to boost funding — as evidenced by the slight overall increase in non-proliferation funding requests — and the nearly assured passage of a certification waiver it requested of congress for programs like CTR, many non-proliferation advocates in Washington are dismayed by what they see as virtually no increase in spending at all.

Most vocal among these critics has been former US Senator Sam Nunn, who in 1991, with Senator Richard Lugar, crafted the Nunn-Lugar, or CTR, program. Currently, Nunn co-chairs with American media mogul Ted Turner the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a Washington-based NGO devoted to the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Last week, Nunn sharply criticized Bush for not requesting an increase in funding for non-proliferation project in Russia.

“Even as the administration seeks increases of tens of billions for fighting terrorism, for homeland security and for developing a missile defence system, it seeks no increase for efforts to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists,” he was quoted last week as saying by the Global Security Newswire (GSN), which publishes on NTI’s website.

Nunn told GSN that the Bush administration has requested $65 billion for the war on terrorism and for so-called homeland security measures in the United States — a figure Nunn said is more than three times what was requested for the Gulf War. In his statements to GSN, Nunn argued that the greatest threat to US security is posed by terrorists armed with crude radiological or nuclear weapons.

As Bellona Web reported last week, the creators of a comprehensive new database at Stanford University that tracks the smuggling of radioactive materials deemed FSU a “supermarket” for would be nuclear terrorists.

Indeed, securing funding for Russian non-proliferation programs has been an uphill battle under this administration. The amount requested for 2003 is roughly equal to the $1 billion approved for 2002.

But according to Nunn, in his statements to GSN, even reaching last years figure required congressional intervention. Last year, the administration only requested $745 million for threat reduction programs — a decrease of about $100 million, Nunn said, according to GSN. Congress had to add $257 million to reach last year’s financial appropriation of $1 billion, Nunn told GSN.

Cuts proposed

But even as former Senator Nunn levelled his critique at the generous sums Bush requested for Homeland security, the US House of Representatives’ Armed Services Committee (HASC) was on its way to fashioning a bill that would grant those sums — partly at the expense of the DoE 2003 non-proliferation projects.

According to a RANSAC congressional Update issued May 8, the Homeland Security the legislation would cut, though, $39 million from the administration’s $1.13 billion request for Energy Department nuclear non-proliferation programs, citing in part nearly $60 million in “unobligated balances” from the current fiscal year intended for eliminating weapon-grade plutonium in Russia.

A $10 million reduction would be made in the DoE’s Russian plutonium disposition program from $98 million to $88 million, and $4 million would be added for US fissile materials disposition. The program to eliminate Russian plutonium production would be reduced by $30 million, from $49 million to $19.3 million.

In those DoE programs that do not take place in Russia, other cuts were suggested by HASC, specifically in the DoE’s international safety programs, which would lose $3 million from the requested $146 million.

CTR remains untouched

Funding for CTR programs was fully authorized, at $416.7 million, RANSAC reported. However, only $50 million of the $133.6 million requested for the CW destruction facility was approved, with the $83.6 million balance being redirected to Russian strategic offensive arms elimination, strategic nuclear arms elimination in Ukraine, and Russian warhead storage and transportation security.

The committee’s report cited concerns Russia is not living up to its Chemical Weapons Convention commitments, GSN reported. It approved, however, a provision to allow the president to allow Cooperative Threat reduction funding to continue by waiving a requirement to certify Russia is complying with all relevant arms control agreements.

The committee recommended a provision to express as the sense of Congress that Russian proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology, items and know-how to Iran and other countries of concern “represents a clear threat to U.S. national security and vital interests,” GSN reported.

With the completion of the HASC mark-up, both the Administration’s budget-requests for US-Russian non-proliferation programs and the Homeland Defence requests will be voted on by the House of Representatives.

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