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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Press Releases

Congress Appears in No Rush to Pass Additional Protocol Implementing Legislation

Michael Cowden


The implementing legislation for an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains tied up in a Senate committee, but Republicans and Democrats hope to see action taken on the bill before the July 4 recess.

Both, however, acknowledge that the process could take longer than expected.

“This is something that will take some time,” Andy Fisher, spokesperson for Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), told Arms Control Today. “Numerous committees in both houses have an interest in the legislation.”

After failing to detect Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program, the IAEA negotiated a new, more invasive inspection regime for countries who agree to participate. Codified in the 1997 model Additional Protocol to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the tougher rules allow IAEA officials to conduct short-notice inspections and require participating states to provide more information to the IAEA about their nuclear material and nuclear weapons-related equipment.

The United States signed such an additional protocol in 1998. But in approving its version in March, the Senate, at the behest of the Bush administration, inserted broad exemptions to protect military as well as commercial nuclear secrets. (See ACT, April 2004.)

“I do not believe that the additional protocol will be a burden for the United States,” said Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a March 31 statement.

Although other signatories to the treaty do not enjoy such exemptions, U.S. participation is seen as an important symbolic step in encouraging other countries, such as Iran, to sign an additional protocol.

A Vienna-based diplomat said that U.S. implementation of an additional protocol would set a good example for countries that have not yet done so. He said it also could help prevent other countries from developing nuclear weapons, citing Libya’s nuclear program as something that could have been stopped by a protocol.

The implementing bill was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December. Although the Senate unanimously endorsed an additional protocol itself on March 31, no vote has been scheduled in that chamber for the implementing legislation, which, unlike a treaty, must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Implementing legislation describes the nuts-and-bolts process of how the treaty will work under U.S. law and is needed before it can be enforced domestically. The Senate also insisted that such implementing legislation be in place less than six months after the United States chooses to deposit its instrument of ratification to the agreement—the final step needed to become international law. The Bush administration has not yet carried out that step.

Fisher declined to suggest a timeline for Senate action, but staffers from each party predicted the measure will go to the floor in late June or early July.

One staffer said jurisdictional issues are mainly to blame for delays. The implementing legislation was initially referred to the Foreign Relations panel, but many of its provisions, like the ones concerning the issuing of warrants under U.S. law, pertain to issues that are usually handled by the Judiciary Committee.

Implementing legislation has yet to be introduced in the House.

A Democratic congressional staff member suggested that companion legislation would not be introduced in the House until after the Senate approves its version. He suggested, moreover, that the legislation would pass quickly once introduced in the House because, he said, the White House is eager to put additional diplomatic pressure on Iran.

 

 

 

 

The implementing legislation for an additional protocol to the U.S. safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) remains tied up in a Senate committee...

After Long Delay, Energy Department Releases Weapons Advisory Committee Report

Gabrielle Kohlmeier


Succumbing to pressure from nongovernmental groups and members of Congress, the Department of Energy has finally turned over a closely held report by an internal advisory committee that critiques the department’s weapons and nonproliferation activities. Although generally favorable toward the “vision and scope” of the strategic plan of the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the report questions the prioritization of NNSA activities, as well as several Bush administration initiatives, including enhancing test-site readiness and researching advanced nuclear concepts.

The report, finalized March 1, 2002, is composed of two subcommittee reports of an NNSA advisory panel established to review science and technology programs related to the nuclear weapons stockpile and detection of nuclear weapons proliferation. The Defense Programs subcommittee reviewed science and technology in the Stockpile Stewardship Program, while the Nuclear Nonproliferation subcommittee assessed science and technology in the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The NNSA advisory group was created in 2001 by then-NNSA administrator John Gordon, who wanted the committee to reflect diverse scientific and philosophical viewpoints. Among the 15 members of the panel were subcommittee lead coordinators Jeremiah Sullivan and Raymond Jeanloz; James Schlesinger, who has served as secretary of energy and secretary of defense; and physicist and arms control specialist Sidney Drell. But the group was disbanded in mid-2003 by newly appointed NNSA administrator Linton Brooks. (See ACT, September 2003.) Requests for the committee’s reports from both nongovernmental groups and congressional officials remained unsuccessful until March when Global Security Newswire obtained a copy in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report offers a positive appraisal of various NNSA programs and operations, pronouncing that “there is a great deal that is progressing well.” It does, however, express concerns over certain operational inefficiencies and several individual programs. Particular criticism was leveled at management of the stockpile life extension program as well as at test readiness and advanced-concepts design initiatives, two areas for which the Bush administration has requested large budget increases the last few years. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The panel warned that NNSA’s stockpile life-extension program, which certifies and assesses the performance, safety, and reliability of aging or refurbished weapons, had modified its procedures in a way that risked introducing uncertainties into the reliability of the weapons.

The report also suggested that NNSA claims that the United States would require at least two to three years to restart nuclear testing are exaggerated. Indeed, the report asserts that the committee had been told that, even without additional preparations, the United States might be able to perform a test in as little as three to six months. The report elaborates that test readiness “cannot be further evaluated without considering specific scenarios.”

The NNSA’s advanced concepts initiative, which includes research on low-yield nuclear warheads and so-called nuclear bunker busters, also elicited concern. (See ACT, March 2003.) The report noted that the purported advanced concepts presented to the committee “did not involve any radical departures from previously considered (or even implemented) systems.” It also complained that “concepts that have been discussed quite forcefully in recent times have yet to be examined in sufficient technical depth to determine that their potential military benefits justify the costs involved.” Congressional budget appropriators expressed similar concerns last November when they cut administration budget requests and attached conditions on the release of funds for research for the current fiscal year. (See ACT, September and December 2003.) In its recommendations for improving efficiency, the NNSA advisory committee urged that all new design concepts be thoroughly reviewed.

The reasons for the protracted disclosure of the report to the public and members of Congress remain unclear. In an interview with Arms Control Today, Jeanloz, the lead coordinator of the stockpile stewardship subcommittee, said the panel had “no intent to find fault or to give a pat on the head, but to make a critical assessment.” Jeanloz speculated that the new NNSA leadership may have just wanted to be doubly sure that the report did not contain sensitive information.

On the other hand, Sullivan, the lead coordinator on the defense nuclear nonproliferation subcommittee, indicated that the failure to release the report was part of NNSA’s general discomfort with an outside advisory board. He told Arms Control Today that “NNSA just didn’t know what to do with an advisory committee. Much of what we wanted to do was to establish that [the Energy Department] had valuable resources and expertise that are important to present and future issues of nonproliferation—nuclear and chemical and biological.” Sullivan underscored the significance of the advisory committee’s termination, averring that “every organization of that size and importance needs an independent review.”

Some members have agreed, deploring the loss of a critical, independent review of NNSA programs. In a letter to Brooks, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) cited the disbanding of the advisory committee as an indication that the Energy Department “is seeking to close itself off from any independent outside expert advice regarding its nuclear weapons programs.” No comparable panel has been established to evaluate NNSA programs since the dissolution of the advisory committee last year.

 

 

 

 

 

Succumbing to pressure from nongovernmental groups and members of Congress, the Department of Energy has finally turned over a closely held report...

GAO: Deployment Looms, But Missile Defense Remains Unproven

Wade Boese


Some Pentagon projects to build missile defense systems are showing progress, but it remains uncertain whether key elements set for deployment this September will work as intended, according to an April 2004 report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

“System effectiveness will be largely unproven when the initial capability goes on alert at the end of September 2004,” the GAO concluded in its latest critical review of U.S. missile defense programs. The congressional watchdog further charged that lawmakers and other policymakers might not be fully aware of the various defenses’ true capabilities because the programs are always in flux and lack criteria and benchmarks for measuring progress.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) oversees research and development of U.S. missile defenses. It is currently striving to field the initial elements of some of those systems by this September in accordance with a deployment goal set by President George W. Bush in December 2002.

A long-range ballistic missile launch by North Korea, which has not flight-tested such a missile, is postulated as the near-term threat driving the fall deployment. MDA Director Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish testified to senators April 21, “[W]e have very high odds of engaging and successfully destroying the threats that we think we’re going after right now.”

The GAO did report that construction of the new ground-based interceptor base at Fort Greely, Alaska, remains on track, but it said that the initial deployment would be scaled back during 2004 and 2005.

Current MDA plans comprise deploying up to 20 ground-based interceptors at two sites, putting nine sea-based interceptors aboard three ships, and upgrading two land-based radars and outfitting 10 ships to help track enemy ballistic missiles.

Earlier plans called for up to 20 sea-based interceptors and 15 ships with improved missile-tracking capabilities. The number of deployed ground-based interceptors is also likely to fall short of expectations because of interceptor test and production delays, GAO predicted.

Moreover, GAO questioned whether the interceptors that will be deployed would work as intended. The report pointed out that both the ground- and sea-based interceptors have had problems with their kill vehicles and that subsequent technical fixes have not been verified through flight testing. The kill vehicle is the component designed to seek out and collide with an enemy warhead in space.

More broadly, the interceptors have only been subjected to a modest number of “highly scripted” developmental tests that do not replicate realistic conditions—a limitation that GAO recommended should be remedied by subjecting the systems to more challenging experiments.

The Pentagon has heard such critiques in the past and replied as it has before that real-world testing of missile defenses is only possible after the systems are built and deployed.

Under its new spiral development approach, the Pentagon aims to field weapons systems earlier in their development cycle and improve them incrementally. Such an evolving system is more responsive to new or changing threats and provides some defensive capability sooner rather than later, the Pentagon argues.

Although acknowledging that such flexibility may be useful in helping defenses keep pace with threats, GAO reported it also diminishes program accountability.

GAO called upon MDA to establish future cost, schedule, and performance baselines for its programs, so Congress can exercise better oversight and the armed services can more accurately budget how much a particular defense will cost them to procure and operate.

Current MDA estimates place the cost of missile defense programs at $53 billion between fiscal year 2004 (which began Oct. 1, 2003) and fiscal year 2009, but GAO said the total does not include figures for buying, producing, operating, and maintaining future systems. The sum does include deploying the initial missile defense elements because those activities are categorized as research and development.

One system experiencing significant cost overruns and development delays is the Airborne Laser (ABL), which is a plane armed with a laser to destroy ballistic missiles soon after their launch. Earlier estimates put the system’s development cost at $2.5 billion and projected that the first aircraft might be available as early as 2003, but the program’s budget has doubled and its earliest deployment date has slipped by at least two years. GAO said the program’s difficulty was “substantially underestimated.”

GAO judged two other MDA programs more favorably. It assessed the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles near the end of their flights as ahead of schedule and below budget and the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS), designed to track ballistic missiles from orbit, as “on track for meeting performance requirements.” GAO cautioned that unforeseen problems could still arise.

Ground-Based Midcourse Missile Defense* Intercept Tests

DATE
RESULT
Oct. 2, 1999 Hit
Jan. 18, 2000 Miss
July 8, 2000 Miss
July 14, 2001 Hit
Dec. 3, 2001 Hit
Mar. 15, 2002 Hit
Oct. 14, 2002 Hit
Dec. 11, 2002 Miss

*Formerly known as National MIssile Defense.

 

 

 

 

Some Pentagon projects to build missile defense systems are showing progress, but it remains uncertain whether key elements set for deployment this September will work as intended...

Law of the Sea Convention Marooned in Senate

Wade Boese


A handful of Republican senators are warning that U.S. accession to the UN Law of the Sea Convention might undermine a U.S.-led initiative to intercept dangerous weapons as well as U.S. sovereignty. Their opposition has helped hold up Senate consideration of the treaty, despite Bush administration and Pentagon support.

With 145 states-parties, the Law of the Sea Convention sets maritime rights and rules for the world’s oceans. The United States warmed to the treaty in 1994 after it was amended to address U.S. concerns about its deep seabed mining provisions that had blocked U.S. signature of the convention when it was first negotiated in 1982.

Despite White House and Pentagon blessings, the treaty has not since been ratified by the United States, in part because of vehement opposition from Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who had been the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he retired last year. Helms opposed the treaty for a number of reasons, including his long-standing distaste for multilateral organizations.

The pact, however, has long enjoyed the backing of the current chairman and top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.). With his support, the Foreign Relations panel unanimously approved the accord Feb. 25 and sent it to the full Senate for a vote. Other key lawmakers urging passage include Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

They want the Senate to act soon because the convention becomes open to amendment this November. “If the United States is not party to the Convention at that time, our ability to protect Convention rights that we fought hard to achieve will be significantly diminished,” Lugar said in a Feb. 25 statement

Some conservative Republicans, such as Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Sen. John Ensign (Nev.), have opposed the convention on the basis that it could hinder the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which is a coalition of 14 states committed to stopping shipments of weapons of mass destruction and missiles in transit. “I am concerned about…being able to board and search ships,” Inhofe said March 23.

Bush administration officials and the Pentagon say such fears are unwarranted. “Far from impeding PSI, joining the convention would actually strengthen the United States’ PSI efforts,” John Turner, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international, environmental, and scientific affairs, said in March 23 testimony.

In an April 7 letter supporting U.S. accession to the convention, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers wrote, “The rules under which U.S. forces have operated for over 40 years to board and search ships or to conduct intelligence activities will not be affected.” He also stated that the convention “ensures the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to operate freely across the vast expanse of the world’s oceans under the authority of widely recognized and accepted international law.”

Despite its rhetorical support for the treaty, the administration does not appear to be pressing the Senate to act. A senior administration official told Arms Control Today April 21 that “[t]he administration fully supports the Law of the Sea Convention. The issue of timing of Senate action is properly addressed to the Senate leadership.”

Confronted by the conflicts within his own party, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has not scheduled the treaty for review. Frist aides did not respond to inquiries asking why the convention had not been put on the Senate calendar.


 

 

 

 

A handful of Republican senators are warning that U.S. accession to the UN Law of the Sea Convention might undermine a U.S.-led initiative to intercept dangerous weapons as well as U.S. sovereignty...

Searching For Ways to Roll Back Nuclear Proliferation

An interview with State Department Policy Planning Director Mitchell Reiss

Miles A. Pomper

Nearly a decade ago, Mitchell Reiss wrote an acclaimed book, Bridled Ambition, which sought to explain why some countries had chosen to abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

“Just as all cancers are not terminal, nuclear status is not immutable,” Reiss wrote. “With the proper treatment (and a dose of good luck), a serious illness can go into remission. Sometimes it can even be reversed.”

Now a top aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reiss is trying to turn some of his academic prescriptions, which included “dollar diplomacy,” U.S. leadership, and preservation of the global nonproliferation regime, into diplomatic reality.

Reiss was named the Department of State’s director of policy planning in August, putting him in charge of its in-house think tank. The appointment came just as Powell and other administration officials were grappling with both short- and long-term challenges to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT, which has been endorsed by all but a handful of nations, seeks to block the further spread of nuclear weapons and encourage their elimination.

On Reiss’s “to do” list has been seeking a way to end North Korea’s nuclear program and similar suspected efforts by Iran. He is also looking at longer-term proliferation problems, from technological changes that could make it increasingly difficult to uncover covert weapons programs to a growing market for civilian nuclear reactors in Asia.

In an April 9 interview with Arms Control Today, Reiss offered his views on all of these subjects. Shunning diplomatic boilerplate for verbal jousting, he demonstrated that he has not abandoned his academic roots altogether. He cracked jokes, battled over ideas, and eagerly poked holes in what he viewed as false preconceptions about the Bush administration’s approach to arms control concerns.

“Part of what I want to do in this interview is just start conversations,” Reiss told ACT.

Drawing an analogy to manufacturing and distribution techniques that were pioneered commercially by Japanese manufacturers and are now used worldwide, Reiss said he is concerned that nuclear proliferators could soon follow suit. Such “just-in-time” proliferation he said, would mean that materials for nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons materials would no longer be stockpiled but only brought together when they need to be used.

“The concept works beautifully in the private sector, and there’s no reason why it can’t work for the bad guys,” Reiss said. “But this will create enormous challenges for the [International Atomic Energy Agency], for the Nuclear Suppliers Group [an export control clearinghouse for most of the major countries with civilian nuclear industries], for all the countries of the world, in order to prevent continued nuclear proliferation.”

In particular, Reiss said this strategy might pose particular problems for on-site inspections—a key tool of international nonproliferation regimes.

“I think on-site inspections certainly are important—essential in some cases,” Reiss said. ”Still, there is a concern that you can inspect a place one day and there will be nothing there, and you come back the next week and everything will be there.”

One of Reiss’s few public speeches since assuming his new post tackled the subject of ending North Korea’s nuclear program (See ACT, April 2004.) In his 1995 book, he pointed to a 1994 agreement that the Clinton Administration made to freeze Pyongyang’s proliferation program as an arms control success story, although he warned that it might well unravel.

Today, he contends that the kind of limited agreement struck by the previous administration is no longer useful, arguing that, like Libya, Pyongyang has to make a “strategic determination” to disarm. “I don’t know [if] North Korea will follow Libya’s lead,” Reiss acknowledged, but said that Tripoli’s recent disarmament does provide an appropriate model.

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong Il faces a choice,” Reiss said. “He can continue to depend on the kindness of strangers, overseeing a devastated economy with an isolated population, or he can join the 21st century. He also has the historic opportunity to do what his father never did, which is to create a stable, peaceful relationship with all his neighbors.”

In making this argument, Reiss draws on his academic research. Officials in the nine countries he surveyed, he said in his book, witnessed the demise of the Soviet Union and “realized that nuclear arsenals and their boundless expansion were unnecessary, even counterproductive, to larger economic and political objectives.”

Reiss also dismissed criticism that the Bush administration’s preference for a multilateral format had needlessly delayed a resolution of the nearly two-year-old crisis. Instead, he said that the six-party talks had succeeded in forging a “united front” among the five other participants in the talks—the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan—leaving Pyongyang little diplomatic wiggle room.

“There’s utility in forcing them to be a little bit franker, a little bit more open and honest, than they were when they could play one off the other,” Reiss said, adding, “I think they realize that the other five countries are lined up against them because all five are opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons.”

For a complete transcript of the interview click here

 

 



 

 

 

 

Nearly a decade ago, Mitchell Reiss wrote an acclaimed book, Bridled Ambition, which sought to explain why some countries had chosen to abandon their nuclear weapons programs...

U.S. Nonproliferation Resolution Advances at UN

Wade Boese


A U.S. effort at the United Nations aimed at preventing nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons has advanced. After months of talks, Washington March 24 formally submitted the anti-proliferation resolution to the UN Security Council for approval after winning agreement from other major capitals on acceptable wording.

President George W. Bush first proposed the resolution in a Sept. 23, 2003, address to the UN General Assembly. (See ACT, October 2003.) The final language calls on states to “refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.”

If the resolution is passed, governments would be duty bound to strengthen and enforce their domestic laws, export controls, and border controls against the sale, transfer, and theft of weapons of mass destruction and missiles from their territories by nonstate actors. The resolution orders that these measures be “appropriate” and “effective” without spelling out exactly what such terms entail.

A spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the UN told Arms Control Today March 25 that standards had not yet been developed to guide judgments on whether a particular government was living up to the terms of the resolution. Appropriate punishments for any violations also remain to be decided, although the official confirmed that a government not complying with the resolution might be threatened with sanctions or military force.

The resolution encourages states capable of doing so to help others that may lack the “legal and regulatory infrastructure, implementation experience and/or resources” to take action under it.
A Security Council committee would be established for “no more than six months” to monitor implementation of the resolution. Governments would be required to file reports on their activities under the resolution within 90 days of its adoption by the Security Council.

Nine of the 15 Security Council members, including all five permanent members, will need to approve the resolution for it to become binding. The United States had been negotiating with the council’s four other permanent members—China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—since December to secure their support for the resolution.

Washington reportedly worked the hardest to win over Beijing, although one U.S. official remarked March 25 that, “at one point or another, everybody had objected to something.”
China’s resistance to early drafts of the resolution stemmed from its opposition to the explicit use of “interdiction.” Beijing is concerned about the legality of intercepting ships suspected of carrying deadly arms or related materials.

The United States, which is spearheading a 14-state effort—the Proliferation Security Initiative—to interdict threatening arms shipments around the globe, removed the controversial word. However, the resolution does urge states to “take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking.” Ambassador John Negroponte, the U.S. representative to the UN, stated March 24 “There’s nothing in this resolution that precludes the continuation of the Proliferation Security Initiative.”

Negroponte told reporters that the resolution is “not meant to supercede, undercut, or undermine existing disarmament and nonproliferation regimes.” The intent, he explained, is to complement current arms control treaties by extending prohibitions against weapons beyond states.

The 15 Security Council members convened expert groups to begin consideration of the resolution March 25. There is no certainty as to when they will come to a final conclusion, but Negroponte said, “We hope to move this forward as expeditiously as possible.”

 

 

 

 

A U.S. effort at the United Nations aimed at preventing nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons has advanced. After months of talks...

U.S. Creates Advisory Board for Biosecurity

Kerry Boyd-Anderson


Heeding the advice of the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a board to advise federal departments or agencies on biological research that could pose a threat to national security. The new National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), announced by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson March 4, will advise the government on developing guidelines for overseeing “dual-use” research, which has potential for both civilian and military applications.

HHS views the board’s creation as the first step in a broader effort to enhance biosecurity—measures designed to minimize the chance that biological research for civilian purposes could be also used to create biological weapons. As the development of biological sciences have rapidly advanced, concern has increased about the possibility that research intended to improve life might instead be used for its destruction. HHS created the board partly in response to an October 2003 report by the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council.

One of the NSABB’s primary tasks is to provide the government with advice on ways to identify dual-use research and to help develop guidelines for judging the risks and benefits of such research. The board, which will include up to 25 voting members from the scientific and security communities, will also work with scientific journal editors to develop guidelines to prevent the publication of research that is too dangerous for public dissemination while maintaining the free flow of ideas among the scientific and security communities. Other tasks include advising on the development of guidelines for programs to educate scientists on biosecurity issues, providing assistance to develop a code of conduct for scientists, and working to advance biosecurity measures and education internationally. In addition, the board may review specific proposed experiments but has no authority to deny or approve them. The National Institutes of Health will manage the NSABB.

There are important limits on the NSABB’s mandate, most importantly that it is confined to an advisory role. Moreover, the board will make suggestions only to government institutions or scientists receiving federal funding, not to independent commercial laboratories. Classified government research also falls outside the board’s scope. In addition, the board lacks any enforcement capability; it cannot enforce any of its recommendations or approve or deny experiment proposals.

In deciding to create the NSABB, officials chose the middle-of-the-road option in the debate over how best to strengthen biosecurity without limiting the free exchange of scientific ideas. Some scientists oppose government oversight, especially any possibility of restrictions on scientific publications. Others believe the board will help improve biosecurity without hampering scientists with bureaucratic red tape. At best, say some biosecurity advocates, the board is a first step. At worst, they say, it provides nothing more than a false sense of security.

 

 

 

 

Heeding the advice of the National Academy of Sciences, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created a board to advise federal departments or agencies on biological research...

U.S. Points to Libya as Disarmament Model: An interview with Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter

Wade Boese

Since December, Paula DeSutter, a top Department of State official, has been working long hours to ensure that Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi fulfills his pledge to abandon irrefutably all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) ambitions and programs. Based on that experience, she has a simple message for the leaders in Iran and North Korea: follow Gaddafi’s lead if you want better relations with the United States.

In a March 12 interview with Arms Control Today, DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, described as “breathtaking” Libya’s Dec. 19 vow to end its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and subsequent steps to make good on that pledge. A former four-year professional staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, DeSutter said the United States wants “Libya to be a model for other countries” and that North Korea and Iran stand to reap greater benefits and security from ending their weapons programs than continuing them.

The United States has long charged North Korea and Iran with covertly pursuing nuclear weapons. North Korea, which kicked out international arms inspectors in December 2002, has admitted as much, while Iran staunchly denies the allegations despite a growing list of illegal nuclear activities exposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is responsible for deterring and detecting attempts by states to use their peaceful nuclear programs as a cover to build atomic arms illicitly.

The Bush administration has made clear that neither Iran nor North Korea can hope for improved relations with the United States unless each unambiguously abandons their nuclear weapons programs, or make what DeSutter deems a “strategic commitment.”

According to DeSutter, Libya made such a strategic commitment. It invited U.S., British, and international inspectors into the country; gave inspectors full access to all the facilities they wanted to see; and turned over weapons and related equipment for removal and destruction. In sum, states genuinely intent on disarming “volunteer information,” DeSutter stated.

For example, DeSutter said that Libyan officials on one occasion voluntarily took inspectors to a turkey farm where some chemical munitions were secretly stored. If they had not done so, she asserted, “we almost certainly would not have been able to identify [the farm as an arms storage area] independently.”

Since making its decision to disarm, Libya has destroyed 3,200 unfilled chemical bombs and allowed the United States to remove more than 1,000 tons of WMD-related equipment, including centrifuge components, and five Scud-C ballistic missiles. Tripoli has also agreed to stop using highly enriched uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, to fuel its reactor at Tajoura.

If Iran and North Korea chose to copy Libya, DeSutter gushed about the possibilities. “I can imagine tremendous movement in terms of how close the United States would want to be to Iran,” DeSutter said. She added, “I can see an awful lot of national needs that [North Korea] has that would be best served by making a strategic commitment to give up its weapons of mass destruction.”

Yet, the Bush administration, which also condemns the two states for their poor human rights records and undemocratic systems, has never specified what kind of benefits the regimes could derive from disarming.

DeSutter implied both states would be safer if they gave up their suspected weapons programs because there would be less reason for other states to be concerned about them militarily. “It’s still a little hard for me to say this out loud, but Gaddafi got it right when he said that their WMD programs made them less secure not more secure,” she stated.

North Korean public statements suggest Pyongyang believes the opposite. They extol the North Korean nuclear weapons program as the only viable protection against attacks by more powerful states, in particular the United States.

Absent a strategic commitment to disarm, DeSutter indicated the United States would have little confidence in verification measures to provide assurances that Iran or North Korea had truly shelved their weapons programs because of their past records of cheating on agreements.

The presence of international arms inspectors would do little to ease her concerns. “No number of inspectors is an adequate substitute for a firm commitment on the part of the government to yield its weapons programs,” DeSutter declared.

Inspections can be of limited utility if items with both civilian and military uses are being scrutinized, DeSutter explained. She said, “As things get smaller, as things become more dual-use, then the verification challenge is going to grow.”

Still, DeSutter said she favors making greater use of the right of states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to conduct challenge inspections to settle suspicions on whether fellow members are truly complying with that treaty. The CWC has been in force since April 1997, and there have been charges of cheating, but no challenge inspections have yet been carried out. DeSutter observed, “Because [the challenge inspection right] has not been used in the past, it becomes increasingly difficult to use it.”

Although very keen about shedding more light on the weapons programs of states hostile to the United States, DeSutter showed little interest in the same for governments friendly to Washington, such as Pakistan, which has nuclear arms and was recently exposed as the home base for an extensive proliferation network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb. (See ACT, March 2004.) Claiming Khan acted in his own interests and worked outside of Pakistan, DeSutter said, “Access to the Pakistani program wouldn’t have necessarily given us insight into what was being produced in Malaysia.”

For a complete transcript of this interview please click here

 

 

 

 

Since December, Paula DeSutter, a top Department of State official, has been working long hours to ensure that Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi fulfills his pledge to abandon irrefutably all...

Putin Downsizes Russian Nuclear Agency

Gabrielle Kohlmeier


Russia’s formerly powerful Atomic Ministry stands to lose power in President Vladimir Putin’s second term, with uncertain consequences for the Kremlin’s stance on issues from policy toward Iran to cooperation with the United States on efforts to dismantle Russia’s Cold War stockpile of nuclear weapons and materials.

Just before winning an easy re-election March 14, Putin announced plans to restructure the executive branch to give him more power over the federal bureaucracy. The number of cabinet positions was cut from 30 to 17. One casualty of the downsizing was the Russian Atomic Ministry (Minatom), which was replaced with the new lower-level Federal Atomic Energy Agency. The agency is still headed by former Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, but it is now under the Ministry of Industry and Energy with a reduced mandate that covers only civilian-related issues. Military aspects will now be handled by the Defense Ministry.

Minatom was in charge of producing and storing civilian and defense nuclear materials, the development and testing of nuclear weapons, and the elimination of excess nuclear warheads and munitions. The Russian government has yet to designate which of these activities will fall to the new agency and which will fall to the Defense Ministry. Putin has said that the new government structure will not be finalized before April.

Rose Gottemoeller, a key liaison with Minatom during the Clinton administration, said that one challenge will be to re-establish a rapport between the corresponding ministers, as U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham’s counterpart will now be Russian Minister of Energy and Industry Viktor Khristenko instead of Rumyantsev. A more difficult question will be whether Russian government reorganization will require a shift in responsibility for existing programs across corresponding U.S. departments. Various Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs had been coordinated between the U.S. Department of Energy and Minatom, but now more of the programs could shift under Russian Defense Ministry control. Traditionally, however, the U.S. Department of Defense, not the Energy Department, deals with the Russian Defense Ministry. If responsibility for programs shifts across U.S. departments, nonproliferation budget allocations could also be affected. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Gottemoeller, who served as the Energy Department’s undersecretary for defense nuclear nonproliferation, also warned that the shift could harm decision-making and implementation of bilateral programs. In particular, the shift could complicate efforts by U.S. officials to gain what they believe is needed access to Russian nuclear facilities.

Paul Longsworth, National Nuclear Security Administration deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, testified before a Senate committee March 10 that such efforts had recently been gaining ground with Minatom. “A working group has been established by Secretary Abraham and Minister Rumyantsev to address this issue [of access required by nonproliferation programs] and is testing new procedures for access to more sensitive Minatom facilties,” Longsworth said. However, such sensitive facilities might now move to the Defense Ministry, some sections of which, Gottemoeller said, have previously resisted granting access for U.S.-conducted CTR programs.

Despite these potential difficulties, U.S. officials assert that Russia’s stance on nonproliferation issues is moving in the right direction. In March 18 testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones stressed the progress in Russian-U.S. cooperation and the importance of continued engagement. Although various members of Congress voiced concerns over Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation, Jones insisted that the “acknowledgement by the Russian government for the first time of their concern that Iran…wanted to develop a weapons program” marked significant advancement and that the Russian government “pledged that they will not ship nuclear fuel for Bushehr,” a civilian light-water nuclear plant that Russia has been building for Iran despite U.S. objections.

Speculation that Minatom’s demise might lead to the cancellation of the Bushehr project was dispelled with the March 22 announcement by the Federal Atomic Energy Agency that a trip to Iran to finalize the agreement to transfer nuclear fuel to Iran was not canceled, merely postponed. Rumyantsev asserted that the Bushehr project will proceed as planned as long as Tehran signs an agreement pledging to return all of the spent reactor fuel to Russia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia’s formerly powerful Atomic Ministry stands to lose power in President Vladimir Putin’s second term, with uncertain consequences for the Kremlin’s stance on issues from policy toward Iran to...

NATO, Russia Hold Joint Missile Defense Exercise

Wade Boese


NATO and Russia used to plan missile attacks against each other, but now they are working together to protect against them. The former adversaries held their first exercise March 8-12 to test jointly developed procedures to defend against strikes from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

The exercise, which took place in Colorado Springs, Colo., did not involve actual military systems or troops but was done using computer simulations. It focused on how NATO and Russian commanders would communicate with each other and direct their troops if they came under missile attack during a joint operation. Nearly 60 representatives from Russia and nine NATO members participated in the “command post exercise.”

A NATO official said March 23 that the exercise went “very well,” although some “refinements” to the prepared procedures would be needed. Another exercise is expected before the end of 2005.

NATO and Russian officials jointly worked out the test procedures through a working group on theater missile defenses established in June 2002. That group is also conducting a study on how various air and missile defense systems might operate together.

NATO-Russian cooperation on theater missile defense follows earlier U.S.-Russian efforts initiated in September 1994 by then-Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. The two countries have conducted a series of joint theater missile defense exercises since 1996. (See ACT, March 2001.)

Western cooperation with Russia on missile defenses has not involved building actual weapons. Washington and Moscow undertook a 1992 project, the Russian-American Observation Satellite (RAMOS), to build two satellites for detecting ballistic missile launches worldwide, but the Pentagon cancelled it earlier this year. No alternative has been proposed.

 

 

 

 

NATO and Russia used to plan missile attacks against each other, but now they are working together to protect against them. The former adversaries held their first exercise March 8-12 to test...

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