Energy Official, GAO Testify on DOE Threat Reduction Efforts
Bleek, Philipp C., Arms Control Today
THE ENERGY DEPARTMENT will have to "curtail" its non-proliferation activities at the reduced funding levels proposed by the administration, the head of the department's National Nuclear Security division testified before a Senate subcommittee May 15. At the same hearing, the General Accounting Office (GAO) presented critiques of the Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (MPC&A) program and the Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI)-two key department nonproliferation programs that the administration has targeted for substantial cuts.
In April, the administration submitted a budget proposal to Congress that would reduce Department of Energy (DOE) Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation funding from its current level of about $875 million to $775 million, with the bulk of proposed cuts impacting nuclear non-proliferation efforts in Russia. Intended to secure vulnerable fissile material and assist Russia in safely downsizing its ponderous nuclear complex, the programs face substantial funding decreases from just over $300 million this year to about $200 million in fiscal year 2002.
The proposed cuts to programs that traditionally enjoy broad bipartisan support have sparked considerable concern in Congress. (See ACT, May 2001.) The House-Senate conference budget resolution approved by both houses in early May, while essentially mirroring the president's proposed budget and therefore failing to reinstate the proposed cuts, specifically calls on the administration to restore $100 million in funding for DOE's non-proliferation programs.
General John Gordon, undersecretary for nuclear security, testified before the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee that, given proposed budget cuts, "it should be apparent and obvious that we will have to curtail efforts in several areas and potentially lose momentum in some." But Gordon also noted that the programs are under review and held out the possibility that the administration could "request a readjustment of the budget once these reviews are complete." Gordon stated that he expects the administration to develop an "overarching strategy" that takes a "fresh look" at the initiatives in the context of overall policy toward Russia.
At the hearing, the General Accounting Office presented two recent analyses: a May 3 critique of the NCI and an earlier February 28 report on the MPC&A program. …