Backing the Bush administrat-ion’s fiscal year 2004 request, Congress last month authorized $450.8 million for the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program to safeguard and secure weapons of mass destruction and their components in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Related Department of Energy nonproliferation programs also received close to what the administration requested—about $1.3 billion. Congress authorized maximum spending limits for the programs in the defense authorization bill, which establishes policy guidelines for defense-related activities, including those in the Energy Department, that were nearly identical to the amounts approved in the appropriations bills for the Defense and Energy Departments.
To encourage the expansion of the program, Congress included a provision allowing up to $50 million in CTR funds to be used in projects beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. In funding the Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs, Congress also permitted use of some International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation funds in countries outside of the former Soviet Union. With this funding, the Energy Department can help secure materials at risk of theft as part of the Nuclear Radiological Threat Reduction Task Force.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a statement Nov. 10 that the legislation, which allows the president to authorize rapid response to an impending threat, will help stem the proliferation of dangerous materials worldwide. “We must pay much more attention to making certain that all weapons and materials of mass destruction are identified, continuously guarded, and systematically destroyed,” Lugar stated.
An earlier attempt by the House of Representatives to cut funds for chemical weapons destruction in Russia was turned back, and the full $200.3 million that President George W. Bush requested for the program was approved. (See ACT, June 2003.) In addition, the Senate agreed to waive for another year legal conditions set out for Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile that in past years had blocked construction of chemical weapons destruction facilities. The congressional requirements for certifying Russia’s compliance with additional criteria governing chemical weapons destruction had blocked U.S. financial assistance to Russia in the past and slowed Russia’s progress in destroying its 40,000-ton chemical weapons stockpile as agreed in the Chemical Weapons Convention. (See ACT, November 2002.)
The defense authorization bill also included some key provisions to regulate the flow of funds to threat reduction projects. Acting on concerns that the program was sinking money into projects that then were abandoned, Congress required that the program obtain necessary local permits for each phase of a project before spending allocated funds and that U.S. managers be present during large construction projects.
Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the oversight measures, telling ACT Nov. 19 that “CTR programs are vital to combating a serious threat to America and our national security.… [T]he new provisions included in this bill should provide the proper oversight to ensure CTR funds are used for their original purpose.”
Lawmakers also demanded that Russia allow access to biological weapons sites receiving CTR funds to verify that scientists are not performing illegal biodefense activities. In March testimony before the House panel, officials from the General Accounting Office had raised concerns that Moscow was impeding U.S. access to the facilities.
For Energy Department nonproliferation programs, Congress authorized spending up to $1.33 billion, just $8 million less than the administration’s request. Meanwhile, appropriators granted $5 million less than the authorizers to those same programs. Nonproliferation funds will support materials control and protection, transparency and verification measures, weapons-usable materials disposition, and programs to assist former Russian weapons scientists as they transition their skills to civilian activities.