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Obama Shifts U.S. Stance on CTBTO Funding
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Meri Lugo and Daniel Horner

The Obama administration's fiscal year 2010 budget request for the Department of State includes $26 million for the U.S. contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the first request to meet or exceed the CTBTO's assessed contribution since the Clinton administration.

But the $26 million would cover only the United States' 2009 assessed dues and would not be adequate to meet the country's 2010 assessment, diplomatic sources in Vienna said. Delay in the U.S. payments could create a shortfall in the CTBTO budget that could deprive the United States of its voting rights within the organization and adversely affect the monitoring and verification system, according to CTBTO officials.

In February, the United States paid $20.5 million to cover all of its outstanding arrears but still owes $24 million for its 2009 assessment. Its 2010 assessment of approximately $24 million will soon become due.

For several years in a row, the United States has had its voting rights suspended at the beginning of the calendar year because it has not fully paid its outstanding dues. Each suspension lasted a few months before the United States made a payment and had its voting rights reinstated.

Under Article II of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a CTBTO member that is in arrears in paying its assessed contribution "shall have no vote in the Organization if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contribution due from it for the preceding two years."

The CTBTO budget for 2009 is $113 million, and the United States is expected to pay approximately 22 percent of the total budget. According to a 2008 Congressional Research Service report, almost 70 percent of the CTBTO budget is directed toward the annual cost of the International Monitoring System (IMS) and its accompanying infrastructure, such as the International Data Center and the Global Communications Infrastructure.

During his April 5 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama expressed his support for the CTBT's entry into force and said his administration would pursue ratification "aggressively and immediately." Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Obama administration "will fully support" the IMS. That system "gives the United States better capability to detect and identify very low-yield tests than we would on our own," she said in written responses to questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January.

In its request for another international organization that has a key role in Obama's nonproliferation policy, the State Department is asking for $65 million for the United States' voluntary contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The U.S. contribution for fiscal year 2009 is $62.5 million; that figure includes $1.5 million in a pending suplemental appropriations bill, according to State Department budget documents.

The fiscal year 2010 request "initiates the effort to eventually double U.S. voluntary contributions" to the IAEA, the State Department said in one of the budget documents.

The U.S. contribution supports programs in nuclear safeguards, safety, and security, as well as nuclear energy and the peaceful use of nuclear science technologies, the document said. Voluntary contributions allow the U.S. government "to target programs of specific interest," as the document put it. That is a key difference between voluntary and assessed contributions.

For the assessed contribution to the IAEA, the Obama administration is requesting $100.2 million for fiscal year 2010. That is an increase from the fiscal year 2008 expenditure of $98.0 million and the estimated fiscal year 2009 figure of $94.1 million, according to the State Department budget documents.

The increase "reflects additional verification activities the [IAEA] is undertaking in India and recosting for updated economic factors," the State Department said.

Last year, under an initiative led by the United States, an international ban on major nuclear exports to India was lifted in return for a set of nonproliferation commitments by New Delhi. One of the main Indian commitments was to allow IAEA inspectors into some of the country's currently unsafeguarded nuclear reactors.