Bush Plans Changes in Threat Programs

William Huntington

Continuing the shift in emphasis of U.S. threat reduction efforts toward programs with global reach, the Bush administration’s fiscal year 2007 budget request includes cuts to a number of traditional threat reduction programs in the former Soviet Union and modest increases to those with broader regional scope.

The flagship Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program within the Department of Defense is marked for a 10.6 percent cut, while similar Department of State programs received slight across-the-board increases. Nonproliferation projects within the Department of Energy received mixed support in the request, with a large increase for disposition of U.S. fissile material and cuts slated for several programs operating in the former Soviet Union.

Department of Defense

The president’s fiscal year 2007 budget request for the Defense Department includes $372 million for the CTR pro gram, a $44 million cut from current spending. The Pentagon has not yet released a programmatic breakdown for the proposed funding. The CTR program works to secure, dismantle, and dispose of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their fabrication facilities in the former Soviet Union.

In an e-mail to Arms Control Today, Andy Fisher, a spokesperson for CTR champion and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), played down the significance of the cut to the CTR program, noting that additional funds are included in a pending fiscal year 2006 sup plementary budget request for the Defense Department. The added $44 million for warhead storage security in Russia would bring total CTR funding up to current levels.

But an aide to Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Arms Control Today Feb. 16 that “cutting the funding for CTR in the base budget is the wrong way to go.” Con cerning the inclusion of funds for warhead storage security in the budget supplemental, the aide said, “[P]articularly given that this is for urgent security upgrades, it does beg the question, why is the funding in the supplemental and not the base budget?”

Fisher also noted that the reduced request for CTR programs reflects that the administration has yet to spend funds Congress has already allocated for delayed construction projects, such as a chemical weapons destruction facility at Shchuchye in Russia, slated to come on line in 2008. In addition, several other costly weapons destruction programs are winding down, Fisher said.

Department of Energy

The president’s request for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would increase funds for disposition of U.S. surplus fissile materials and cut a number of Russia-oriented programs.

The budget request includes $28.5 million for the Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, which seeks to redirect the expertise of former weapons scientists in Iraq, Libya, and the former Soviet Union toward civilian pursuits. The request is 29 percent below current spending of $39.6 mil lion. NNSA says the lower total reflects diminished program activity in the Russian cities of Sarov and Snezhinsk.

The budget request for the Interna tional Nuclear Materials Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program, which seeks to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials, is $413.2 million, a 3.3 percent reduction from the 2006 appropriation of $427 million. Within the MPC&A request, a significant increase is slated for the Second Line of Defense program in order to accelerate the installation of radiation detectors in the Caucasus region. Mean while, cuts are proposed for programs providing physical protection upgrades at Russian weapons fabrication sites as well as civilian nuclear sites.

The request calls for $206.7 million for the Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production program, an increase of 17 percent from the previous year’s appropriation of $176.2 million. The program aims to shut down the last three Russian weapons-grade plutonium-producing power reactors and replace them with fossil fuel-burning plants.

A 9 percent increase to $106.8 million is requested for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which seeks to repatriate Russian- and U.S.-supplied weapons-grade reactor fuel from around the globe, convert reactors fueled by highly enriched uranium to the use of less vulnerable fuel, and secure radioactive sources worldwide.

A large increase of $169 million is requested for the Fissile Materials Dispo sition program, which works to dispose of U.S. and Russian bomb material. How ever, the vast majority of the $638 million requested for the program, including virtually the entire increase, is allocated to programs within the United States. Furthermore, the $34.7 million request for plutonium disposition efforts in Russia is to be paid out of prior year balances and appropriations, with no additional appropriations requested.

The parallel fissile materials disposition efforts in Russia and the United States have been delayed because of outstanding issues regarding liability protections for foreign contractors in Russia. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 16 that the long-running disagreement over liability will soon be resolved. Calling the negotiations of a liability protocol “successfully completed,” Bodman told committee members that “senior Russian government officials have assured the United States that this protocol will be signed in the near future.”

The NNSA, in an email to Arms Control Today , said that a total of $283 million within their budget request will support implementation of the Bratislava Nuclear Security Initiatives, a February 2005 agreement between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to enhance and accelerate cooperation on nuclear weapons security.

Department of State

The administration requested $139 mil lion for the threat reduction activities of the State Department, a 4.3 percent increase from the previous year’s $133.5 million appropriation within the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining and Related Programs budget line.

The Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund, a unique pool of funds designed to allow for quick responses to unforeseen nonproliferation contingencies, received $38 million in the request, a 1.3 percent increase from the previous year.

The budget request calls for $45 mil lion for the Export Control and Related Border Security Assistance (EXBS) pro gram, a 3.8 percent increase from the 2006 level of $43.4 million. In 2007 the State Department seeks to make the EXBS program “increasingly global,” working with 47 countries to improve border security.

The largest increase for the State Department’s threat reduction programs goes to the Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise program, which is slated to receive $56.2 million, up 6.4 percent from the 2006 appropriation of $52.6 million. This program aims to redirect former weapons scientists into peaceful pursuits.