Bush Signs Waiver, Freeing Threat Reduction Funding

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PRESIDENT BUSH SIGNED a waiver August 7 that freed up more than $300 million in funding for U.S. efforts to safeguard and dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. The waiver, however, expires at the end of September, and Congress is debating measures to extend the president's ability to release the funds.

The Bush administration decided last spring that it could not certify Russian compliance with the chemical and biological weapons conventions-a condition Congress placed on funding for the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs and similar efforts run by the State and Agriculture departments. The administration's decision marked the first time the United States has not certified Russian compliance since threat reduction programs began operation in 1991. (See ACT, May 2002.)

In order to continue funding for the nonproliferation projects, the White House asked Congress to grant the president the authority to waive the certification requirement on the basis of national security interests. Congress approved a temporary waiver in fiscal year 2002 supplemental funding. The president signed the supplemental funding legislation August 2 and signed the waiver five days later. The waiver frees up funds until the federal government's fiscal year ends on September 30.

Without a more permanent waiver, however, funding for threat reduction programs could be frozen each year if the president does not certify Russian compliance with certain arms control agreements. "Without a permanent waiver, Russian implementation of key reductions under the Moscow Treaty could be suspended for more than six months each year while Congress considers additional waiver authority," said Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), who cosponsored the creation of the CTR program in 1991. …