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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
State Department Announces Reorganization

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Wade Boese

Department of State officials assert that the State Department’s separate bureaus for arms control and nonproliferation no longer exist. Instead, they have been combined into the new Bureau for International Security and Nonproliferation.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice unveiled the merger plan July 29, arguing that it would improve U.S. capabilities to prevent terrorists from obtaining unconventional weapons. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The reorganization was submitted to Congress for a mandatory 15-day review period. Implementation of the plan was postponed briefly because some legislators, including House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), requested a “hold” in order to obtain additional information and time to evaluate the proposed changes. Holds are not legally binding, but the executive branch typically recognizes and tries to address them to preserve comity between the branches, particularly because Congress controls the purse strings.

Hyde spokesperson Sam Stratman told Arms Control Today Sept. 22 that the chairman felt the plan was “significant and vital” and released his hold after the State Department provided additional information. However, at least one lawmaker, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, maintains a hold.

Nevertheless, the State Department established the new bureau Sept. 13. In addition, the verification and compliance bureau was expanded and renamed the Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation. At this time, the changes are largely in name only as no offices have been moved and no final personnel decisions have been made for the new bureaus.

Senior positions in the international security bureau have only been filled on a temporary basis. Stephen Rademaker, former assistant secretary of state for arms control, is serving as the acting head. Acting deputy assistant secretaries also have been selected to lead the three main offices of the new bureau: Andrew Semmel for nuclear nonproliferation policy and negotiations; Frank Record for counterproliferation; and Donald Mahley for threat reduction, export controls and negotiations.

Semmel and Record also are part of a four-person panel responsible for making recommendations on staffing the international security bureau. The other two panelists are Chris Ford, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation, and Ambassador Jackie Sanders, who is the U.S. permanent representative to the 65-member Conference on Disarmament. When they will make their recommendations and how soon those will be acted on remains uncertain.

The plan generated a mixed reaction among State Department officials when first broached earlier this year. (See ACT, March 2005.) Some officials welcomed the merger as necessary for keeping pace with a changing world and threats, while others saw it as a move to reduce the prominence of arms control and treaties.

John Wolf, who served as assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation during 2001-2004, told an Arms Control Association press briefing audience Sept. 16 that how the State Department organizes itself is not the key factor in whether it succeeds in reducing weapons dangers. “It’s not really a question of where the deck chairs are, but it’s kind of a question who the captain is and who’s got the helm,” Wolf said. He added, “[I]f there is a clear direction set and there is good leadership that is policy innovative, and if we use all of the tools at our disposal and not just a few selective tools, then, I think, in a way, the amalgamation doesn’t matter.”