State Dept. Restructures Arms Control Bureaus

By Golan-Vilella, Robert | Arms Control Today, November 2010 | Go to article overview

State Dept. Restructures Arms Control Bureaus


Golan-Vilella, Robert, Arms Control Today


In its third internal reshuffling in a dozen years, the Department of State has reorganized its bureaus charged with addressing threats presented by weapons of mass destruction. The revamping is an effort to clarify responsibilities and to bring arms control, verification, and compliance into a single bureau, the department said in an Oct. 1 press release.

Under the new arrangement, the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation (VCI) was renamed the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC). In addition, a number of offices in the Bureau of international Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) were moved into the AVC.

As a result of the shift, the AVC assumed principal responsibility for multilateral arms control policy, including representing the United States at the Conference on Disarmament and the UN General Assembly. The AVC also now has the lead role within the State Department on missile defense, space policy, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and efforts to conclude a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Meanwhile, the ISN will remain responsible for the State Department's efforts "to ensure the security, and prevent the proliferation and acquisition, of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems; the materials, equipment, and technology needed to build them; and other destabilizing conventional military capabilities," according to the press release. The ISN will continue to oversee the Biological Weapons Convention, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and nuclear material controls.

The existing Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the State Department's principal link to the Department of Defense, will remain unchanged, covering subjects including defense trade, arms export controls, and conventional weapons issues such as the Mine Ban Treaty and a prospective arms trade treaty.

Explaining the rationale behind the change, a State Department spokesman told Arms Control Today in an Oct. 13 e-mail that some arms control and verification functions were moved into the VCT in 2005, including strategic arms control and European security agreements. This reorganization, he said, would "continue with the organizational unification of arms control, verification, and compliance policy in a single bureau."

By bringing these missions together, the State Department will be able to ensure that verification and compliance regimes will be built into arms control agreements from the beginning, the press release said.

The spokesman added that fewer than 35 employees were affected by the change, out of a pre-reorganization total of approximately 225 in the ISN and 100 in the VCI.

This is the third reorganization of the United States' arms control and nonproliferation machinery to occur since 1997-1999, when the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was merged into the State Department during the Clinton administration. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C), who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the time, demanded ACDA's dissolution in exchange for allowing a Senate vote on advice and consent for the Chemical Weapons Convention. (See ACT, April 1997.)

ACDA's merger into the State Department led to the creation of the position of undersecretary for arms control and international security in 1999. Two new bureaus, one for arms control and one for nonproliferation, were established under the undersecretary's leadership. …

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