Nonproliferation Budget Sees Some Hikes

By Harvey, Cole; Horner, Daniel | Arms Control Today, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Nonproliferation Budget Sees Some Hikes


Harvey, Cole, Horner, Daniel, Arms Control Today


The Obama administration is asking Congress for significant funding increases in programs designed to secure nuclear material in Russia and detect radioactive material passing through the world's busiest ports, according to budget documents released in May.

But the proposed budget would also reduce funding for some other nonproliferation initiatives, including the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. The request partially reflects President Barack Obama's pledge, made during his April 5 speech in Prague, to "set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, [and] pursue new partnerships" in order to "secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years." However, Thomas D'Agostino, who heads the Department of Energy's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), said in congressional testimony that the fiscal year 2010 budget request is not fully representative of the president's four-year plan because budget planning for that fiscal year already was well under way when Obama took office and spelled out his goals to the NNSA. Fiscal year 2010 begins Oct. 1, 2009.

Increases for Nonproliferation Security

The administration Is asking for funding increases of 20 to 50 percent for various programs that aim to bolster nuclear security in Russia. The funds would be used to tighten security for warheads and weapons-usable material held by the Russian navy and Strategic Rocket Forces, by the state-controlled Rosatom weapons complex, and at civilian nuclear sites. The NNSA, which oversees the programs, intends to upgrade outdated security equipment at those facilities and help train Russian security personnel, according to the budget documents. All told, the programs working in Russia would have their budgets raised to a combined $279.6 million, an increase of more than $54 million.

The program that would get the largest boost under the heading of international nuclear materials protection is known as Second Line of Defense (SLD). Through the SLD program, the United States helps install radiation detection equipment at border crossings, airports, and strategic seaports around the world. The Obama administration is requesting $272.7 million for the program in fiscal year 2010, up from the $174.8 million appropriated in 2009. Most of this money would be used to install detection equipment at 15 additional seaports and to maintain existing installations elsewhere.

The proposed NNSA budget would more than triple funding for verifying declared nuclear activities and detecting clandestine nuclear programs in "countries of proliferation concern." In fiscal year 2010, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Verification program would use part of a $56.9 million budget to assist with the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program. It is unclear whether these activities will take place, given Pyongyang's April 14 repudiation of the 2007 denuclearization agreements reached through the six-party negotiations and its announced resumption of spent fuel reprocessing. (See ACT, May 2009.)

According to D'Agostino's May 13 testimony before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, the proposed budget would also add $15 million to the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative, which aims to "strengthen the international safeguards system and the International Atomic Energy Agency." According to the NNSA budget, the initiative is supposed to develop "advanced safeguards approaches, technologies, and equipment" and to cultivate a new generation of safeguards specialists.

Reductions in Other Programs

Not all nonproliferation programs would get a boost under the president's budget. In total, the administration's request would trim the budget for nonproliferation and verification research and development by $66 million and the budget for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) by $42 million, a drop of 18 percent and 11 percent, respectively. …

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