President Gains Permanent CTR Waiver Power

William Huntington

Congress in December granted the president permanent authority to annually waive restrictions on the use of funds for threat reduction activities in the former Soviet Union. However, a Senate provision that would have eliminated those restrictions outright was removed in talks between House and Senate negotiators.

A temporary waiver authority, granted in 2002, expired at the end of September 2005.

The legislation that created the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program bars the disbursement of funds unless the president annually certifies that the recipient state is committed to meeting several criteria, including compliance with all arms control agreements.

The certification requirement became a major hurdle to threat reduction activities in Russia and other former Soviet states in 2002, when President George W. Bush refused to certify Russia’s commitment to complying with treaties banning chemical and biological weapons. That refusal, the first since the program began in 1991, triggered a freeze of CTR and some other threat reduction funds, stalling projects aimed at securing and dismantling surplus weapons and their fabrication facilities.

Congress responded by including authority to waive the certification in an annual bill authorizing spending for the Pentagon and the Department of Energy. With this waiver authority expiring at the end of fiscal year 2005, lawmakers debated whether to extend the temporary waiver authority for another two years, to make the authority permanent, or to remove the restrictions entirely.

In a June 3 letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and long-time CTR sponsor Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice endorsed the removal of the CTR restrictions but also stated that the administration was “willing to consider other alternatives,” such as permanent waiver authority. A Lugar amendment to the fiscal year 2006 defense authorization bill that would have eliminated the CTR restrictions was adopted by the Senate July 21 by a vote of 78 to 19. That language was not adopted by the House, and in negotiations between the two chambers on the final authorization bill, it was removed.

Under the 2002 legislation, the president was required to explain why any certification could not be granted and justify any waiver on national security grounds. In making the waiver authority permanent, Congress did not alter these requirements.