Placing greater priority on Russian chemical weapons demilitarization, the Department of Defense requested an increase of more than $34 million in its fiscal year 2004 budget for the U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program. The total request is $450.8 million, compared to the $416.7 million that Congress allocated in fiscal year 2003.
The request, made February 3, included $200.3 million in fiscal year 2004 funding for chemical weapons destruction in Russia, a substantial increase over the $132.9 million that was allocated for the project in fiscal year 2003. In addition, the nuclear weapons security and transport budgets would grow by almost $12 million to $71.2 million. Extra funding was available, in part, because other CTR programs have completed their work.
In another step forward for CTR, President George W. Bush signed waivers January 10 that released fiscal year 2003 funding for all CTR programs, including chemical weapons-related efforts, which are subject to additional conditions for funding approval and have their own waiver. Congress granted the president authority in November to waive the congressionally mandated condition that the administration certify Russian compliance with its arms control commitments prior to the release of CTR funding—a requirement that has been the subject of recurring debate in Congress.
Some lawmakers have questioned funding for CTR programs in light of concerns that Russia is not complying with certain arms control treaties or is not fully committed to its nonproliferation programs. In particular, questions about whether Russia has fully declared its chemical stockpile have led lawmakers in previous years to block chemical demilitarization funding until the extent of Russia’s stockpiles can be verified.
The congressional authority allows Bush to waive certification for up to three years for general CTR activities. Congress, however, allowed a waiver for only fiscal year 2003 funding for the chemical demilitarization program. (See ACT, December 2002.)
“We will need to extend the chemical weapons destruction waiver beyond this year so that these deadly weapons can be destroyed,” said Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-author of the legislation creating the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in 1991. If passed, such changes would be included in the fiscal 2004 Defense Appropriations Act.
“Russian stockpiles of weapons and materials are the most likely source for terrorists attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Destroying these weapons at the source is imperative to our national security,” Lugar stated.