Pentagon Plan Aids Arms Verification

Article excerpt

The United States has devised a novel means to verify the dismantling of American and Russian warheads, and the Pentagon wants to propose it to Moscow, Pentagon officials say.

The monitoring would help fill a gap in American and Russian arms control agreements. While the two sides have broad procedures to monitor the number of missiles and bombers they have deployed, they have not allowed each other to observe the dismantling of warheads or measure the fissionable material that has been extracted.

Under the new plan, proposed last week, each side would be allowed to dismantle the warheads in private, in order to keep the designs secret. The other side would then be allowed to measure the amount of plutonium removed, to determine the number of warheads demolished.

But since the Aldrich Ames espionage case broke last month, some lawmakers have questioned why the United States is providing aid to Russia when the two nations continue to spy on each other.

In congressional testimony, Pentagon officials defended the aid the United States is providing to help dismantle Russian weapons, describing it as a key step to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The Pentagon has already signed contracts for some $800 million in assistance to speed disarmament efforts in the former Soviet Union. It is seeking congressional approval for another $800 million in aid through 1995.

Pentagon officials said their disarmament program had three main features. One is to develop a way to verify that the Russians are dismantling their weapons.

"We have developed concepts for monitoring and auditing the warhead dismantlement and fissile materials disposition process without revealing sensitive warhead design features,' Harold P. Smith Jr., told a House panel. Smith is the top assistant to Defense Secretary William Perry on atomic energy matters. …