Threat Reduction Boosted by Policy Review, Spending Bills

By Bleek, Philipp C. | Arms Control Today, January/February 2002 | Go to article overview

Threat Reduction Boosted by Policy Review, Spending Bills


Bleek, Philipp C., Arms Control Today


NEWS AND NEGOTIATIONS

PROGRAMS TO SECURE Russia's vulnerable nuclear materials and expertise received a positive report card from a White House review unveiled December 27, and President George W. Bush signed spending bills in late December and early January that will significantly boost funding for key threat reduction efforts.

The White House launched its threat reduction review in March, after its plans to cut funding for threat reduction programs were strongly criticized by Congress. (See ACT, April 2001.) Early reports indicated that the review would recommend downsizing or even terminating key programs. However, the review of more than 30 programs, which had a combined 2001 budget of about $750 million, determined that most of the programs "work well, are focused on priority tasks, and are well managed," and it identified several for expansion and reorganization.

Within two weeks of announcing the results of the White House review, the president signed the defense authorization and appropriation bills, which granted the administration's full request of $403 million for the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction program, a modest reduction from 2001 levels of $443 million. Emergency supplemental funding in the appropriations bill also provides an additional $226 million to fiscal year 2002 funds for Energy Department threat reduction programs, which had been allocated $804 million by the energy and water appropriations act in November, $70 million less than they received in 2001. (See ACT, December 2001.)

In addition to specifying funding levels, the bills include threat reduction-related restrictions and requirements. Most broadly, the defense authorization act requires the president to submit by June 15 a plan, which should cover "all relevant Federal agencies," for securing, downsizing, and disposing of Russia's nuclear weapons, fissile material, and expertise. The legislation also encourages the president consult with the "relevant states" of the former Soviet Union and with the "appropriate committees of Congress."

Programmatic Changes

The threat reduction review and spending bills also mandated a number of changes to specific threat reduction programs.

The review decided to transfer to the Energy Department a Pentagon program to shut down three Russian plutonium production reactors and to construct conventional power plants to take their place. That decision should allay the concerns of some defense officials and lawmakers who had been reluctant to allocate Defense Department funds for the construction of conventional power plants.

The administration's review also decided to expand the Energy Department's Material Protection, Control, and Accounting program, which helps Russia secure vulnerable nuclear sites. Administration officials declined to provide any additional details.

The administration had sought only $139 million for fiscal year 2002 funding for the program, but Congress restored funding to the 2001 level of $173 million in the energy and water appropriations act. (See ACT, May and December 2001.) The program also received an additional $120 million boost from emergency supplemental appropriations.

The administration's review further decided to consolidate two other key Energy Department programs-the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI) and the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention-a move the General Accounting Office had recommended last May. …

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Threat Reduction Boosted by Policy Review, Spending Bills
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