"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
Congress Boosts Threat Reduction Funding

William Huntington

In approving fiscal year 2006 budget legislation, Congress increased funding for programs at the Departments of Energy and State aimed at securing and destroying weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials worldwide. Congress has yet to give final approval to legislation funding similar Department of Defense programs, but those too are expected to score an increase.

Department of Energy

Threat reduction programs at the Energy Department and its National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) received particularly significant funding increases above the Bush administration request. Funding for the NNSA’s International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program received a substantial boost to $427 million, an increase of more than $83 million from the president’s budget request. The 2005 funding for the program’s work of securing nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials was $295 million. According to lawmakers, the large increase was due to new opportunities for warhead storage site upgrades. They said that a February summit between President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had encouraged further cooperation on safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities. (See ACT, March 2005.)

Congress also added funds to the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program, which is working to shut down the last three operational Russian weapons-grade plutonium producing reactors and replace them with fossil-fuel plants. (See ACT, April 2005.) Congress appropriated more than $176 million for the program, up from the administration request of $132 million. According to the NNSA, two reactors at Seversk will be shut down by 2008, and a reactor in Zheleznogorsk will be shuttered by 2011.

Funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative program was granted at the administration’s requested level of about $98 million. The May 2004 initiative seeks to repatriate Russian- and U.S.-origin nuclear fuel from sites abroad, shut down highly enriched uranium (HEU)-fueled reactors or convert them to the use of low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, and secure radioactive materials worldwide. The energy appropriations bill provides up to $7 million dollars to convert as many as four HEU-fueled research reactors in the United States to LEU fuel. The targeted reactors are operated by Purdue University, Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin, and Washington State University.

Previously known as Russian Transition Initiatives, the Global Initiative for Proliferation Prevention program received $40 million from Congress. Although its focus remains on redirecting former Soviet weapons scientists into peaceful pursuits, the program’s new name reflects the expansion of its mandate into other high-risk proliferation regions, such as Iraq and Libya. The administration had sought $38 million for the program.

NNSA programs for fissile materials disposition, which work to decrease Russian and U.S. stockpiles of fissile materials, took a significant funding cut to $473 million, down from the administration request of about $653 million. Included in the final bill are $195 million for U.S. materials disposition and $35 million for Russian materials disposition, considerably below the administration requests of $227 million and $64 million, respectively. Congress appropriated below the requested level because of snags in the negotiation of a liability agreement for U.S. nuclear security contractors in Russia, which has slowed the spending of funds allocated to the disposal of 34 metric tons of fissile material in Russia and the United States. U.S. and Russian officials have recently indicated that the long-awaited liability agreement will soon be completed.

Department of State

In passing the 2006 foreign operations appropriations bill, Congress approved the administration’s funding request for State Department threat reduction programs with one minor reduction. The combined funding for these programs increased by 12 percent over 2005 levels.

Formerly known as Science Centers/Bio Redirection, the Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise program received its requested $52.6 million, an increase of about $2.5 million over 2005 levels. This program seeks to redirect former weapons scientists into peaceful endeavors around the globe.

The administration’s request of $37.5 million also was granted to the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, a unique pool of funds that allows for ad hoc and rapid response to unanticipated nonproliferation projects. This allocation represents an increase of $5.8 million over the previous year.

The only State Department threat reduction program not to receive the full requested appropriations was the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance program. It was allocated $43.4 million, which is $1 million below the request but still $5.7 million above the 2005 funding level. The program helps strengthen export control legislation in countries at risk of WMD proliferation.

Department of Defense

Although the defense appropriations bills from the House and Senate have not yet been reconciled, both recommended fully funding the administration’s request for $416 million for the Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, making such funding highly likely.

Although only a very modest increase over the 2005 CTR appropriation of $409 million, this amount is higher than the original Defense Department recommendation to the White House, which called for cutting $46 million from the program, according to a Jan. 12 letter from nine House Democrats. (See ACT, March 2005.)

The fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill, which sets policy parameters for the Pentagon, has also not yet been finalized. One outstanding issue to be reconciled in conference concerns an amendment in the Senate version authored by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). It would permanently waive certain restrictions on the use of threat reduction funds in the former Soviet Union. (See ACT, December 2004.) The House version of the bill provides instead a temporary waiver of the same restrictions that would expire at the end of 2007.