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Bush Stresses Importance of Nunn-Lugar Programs but Cuts Funds in 2005 Budget Request
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Miles A. Pomper

President George W. Bush Feb. 11 offered a strong endorsement of U.S. programs to safeguard or destroy the arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and materials formerly possessed by the Soviet Union. However, in his fiscal year 2005 budget request to Congress, released just a week earlier, Bush did not substantially increase funding for these programs and actually proposed cuts to the Department of Defense component as well as suggested spending shifts in programs in the Departments of Energy and State.

In a major nonproliferation address at the National Defense University, Bush called for expanding the so-called Nunn-Lugar programs, named after 1991 legislation drafted by former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and current Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). The programs are intended to prevent the former Soviet Union’s most dangerous weapons and most experienced weapons scientists from falling into the wrong hands.

“The nations of the world must do all we can to secure and eliminate nuclear and chemical and biological and radiological materials,” Bush said.

Yet, Bush offered few specifics beyond saying that the programs should take on the additional task of retraining Iraqi and Libyan weapons scientists for civilian work. The State Department had already announced an Iraq initiative in December. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)

The budget request, released Feb. 2, maintains overall spending on Nunn-Lugar activities at current levels of about $1 billion annually. At a summit of the world’s richest countries in 2002, the United States pledged to spend $1 billion annually over the subsequent decade on such programs in return for a matching contribution from its allies. Nunn-Lugar programs are scattered throughout the Defense, State, and Energy departments. In a February report, Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee called for tripling overall Nunn-Lugar spending to $3 billion annually.

Defense Department

Bush is seeking $409 million in fiscal year 2005 for the Defense Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program—about 10 percent less than the $451 million allocated for CTR activities in fiscal year 2004. Most of the proposed difference comes from slashing spending on the destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons stockpile by more than 20 percent, from $200 million to $158 million. This would slow spending on the controversial Shchuch’ye chemical weapons destruction facility, whose funding has long been a bone of contention between Lugar and Republican conservatives in the House and the Pentagon.

At a Feb. 12 Senate Foreign Relations hearing, the panel’s ranking Democrat, Joseph Biden Jr. (Del.), blamed the Bush’s proposed cut on “ideological idiocy” among some members of the administration, whom he said feared that the Russians “are going to take $200 million they would have spent and do something really bad with it to us.”

However, a recent report from the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General criticizes two U.S.-Russian projects to dispose of former Soviet chemical weapons and fissile material for failing to more clearly spell out Moscow’s responsibilities, increasing the risk that funds could be wasted.

“DOD could have better managed the risks associated with those projects had it negotiated implementing agreements that better defined Russia’s requirements, thus making Russia more responsible for the storage and elimination of Russian weapons of mass destruction,” the December report said.

In particular, the report criticized negotiators for failing to spell out what amounts and types of fissile materials would be sent to a new fissile material storage facility at Mayak. The inspector general also warned that plans for the construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye could be thwarted, for example, if Russia rescinds a land allocation for the project or if Russian of+ficials later claim it violates environmental laws.

In his Pentagon request, Bush also proposes shifting the emphasis of programs aimed at biological weapons proliferation, cutting by nearly two-thirds the budget for cooperative biological research (from $37 million to $13 million) with former Soviet biological weapons scientists while more than doubling funding (from $11 million to $24 million) for programs aimed at promoting safe and secure storage of dangerous pathogens at former Soviet biological institutes.

In addition, Bush proposes increasing the Pentagon’s WMD Proliferation Prevention Initiative by one-third, from $29 million to $40 million. The program, which focuses on former Soviet states other than Russia, assists countries in improving their monitoring and security capabilities in order to detect and intercept the illegal movement of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies across borders.

State Department

In his budget, Bush said he would maintain current spending intended to prevent a “brain drain” of experts who might sell their expertise to U.S. enemies or terrorists. However, the president has since indicated that he wants to broaden such aid to additional countries such as Iraq and Libya..

In the State Department request, Bush seeks $50 million for three Nunn-Lugar-related programs: $30 million for two international science centers in Moscow and Kiev aimed at finding commercial work for former Soviet weapons scientists; $17 million intended to steer former chemical and biological weapons scientists toward civilian work; and $3 million to counter the threat of bioterrorism by trying to use large-scale former Soviet biological weapons production facilities to accelerate drug and vaccine development for highly infectious diseases.

Energy Department

If Congress carries out Bush’s budget request, overall Energy Department spending in Russia and the former Soviet republics would remain largely at current levels of about $475 million per year. Within the proposed budget, however, spending priorities would shift. Also, some Energy Department programs outside the former Soviet Union, such as those providing assistance on developing export controls, would be expanded. In Russia, there would be a tenfold increase to $10 million for the purchase of Russian highly enriched uranium for use as fuel in U.S. research reactors until that fuel can be converted to low-enriched uranium.

On the other hand, the overall budget for securing Russia’s nuclear materials would decline from current levels of $259 million to $238 million under the president’s fiscal 2005 request. The decline stems largely from the completion of security upgrades at Russian Navy warhead storage and nuclear waste sites. There would be increases for two key programs: funding for warhead security upgrades at Russian Strategic Rocket Forces would nearly double (from $24 million to $45 million), and the budget for enhancing nuclear material security at the weapons complex of the Ministry for Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation (Minatom) would be boosted by $10 million, to $43 million.

The budget request also reflects the inability of the United States and Russia to resolve an ongoing dispute over what liability protection Russia should provide U.S. contractors working on Nunn-Lugar programs. (See ACT, September 2003.)

Particularly affected would be plans to carry out a bilateral agreement reached in September 2000 under which the United States and Russia are each supposed to dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium.

Previously, U.S. officials had hoped to begin construction of a mixed-oxide fuel facility in July 2004 in tandem with Russia. Such a facility would combine excess weapons-grade plutonium with depleted uranium to make fuel suitable for nuclear reactors. Because of the dispute over the liability provisions, however, construction of the U.S. site will slip by at least 10 months to May 2005, resulting in a $20 million cut to U.S. fissile material disposition activities. Yet, the budget proposed to Congress would increase funding for Russian disposition activities by a nearly identical amount.


Nunn-Lugar Funding

Figures are in millions

Defense Department

Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriated
Fiscal Year 2005 Requested
Chemical Weapons Destruction
Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation

Energy Department

Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriated
Fiscal Year 2005 Requested
Nuclear Material Security
Russian HEU Purchase for U.S. Research Reactors
Russian Plutonium Disposition

State Department

Fiscal Year 2004 Appropriated
Fiscal Year 2005 Requested
Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise

1. Russian American Nuclear Security Advisory Council (RANSAC) estimate
2. RANSAC estimate
3. Formerly known as the "Science Centers/Bio Redirection" program






Posted: March 1, 2004