"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Press Releases

North Korea Talks Stymied

Paul Kerr

A second round of six-party talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis apparently yielded only marginal progress on procedural issues with major substantive differences still dividing the United States and North Korea. In addition, the participants, including China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan, have yet to follow through on even the modest measures announced at the talks’ conclusion.

According to a Feb. 28 Chairman’s Statement issued by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi after the talks, which took place Feb. 25-28 in Beijing, the parties agreed to meet again in Beijing by the end of June and form a “working group” of lower-level officials to prepare for the meeting. A precise date has not yet been set, however, for either the next round of talks or a working group meeting.

Wang’s statement also said that all parties “expressed their commitment to a nuclear weapon-free Korean Peninsula” and agreed to “take coordinated steps to address the nuclear issue and…related concerns.” However, this does not appear to signify progress because China made a similar statement following the first round of talks.

Recounting the meeting to reporters during a Feb. 28 press conference, Wang described U.S. and North Korean positions that were essentially the same as those expressed prior to the talks. “Sharp” differences remain between Washington and Pyongyang, he said. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The participants are attempting to resolve the crisis that erupted in October 2002. That month, the United States announced that North Korea admitted during a meeting in Pyongyang to having a clandestine uranium-enrichment program, a charge North Korea has since disputed. Such a program can produce explosive material for nuclear weapons. Washington argued that the program violated an agreement that the two countries concluded in 1994, known as the Agreed Framework, to resolve the first North Korean nuclear crisis, which began after North Korea was discovered diverting spent fuel from its graphite-moderated nuclear reactor for reprocessing into plutonium for nuclear weapons. (See ACT, November 2002.)

Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea agreed to freeze the reactor and spent fuel, as well as the related facilities, and place them under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring. In return, Washington agreed to several measures, which included establishing an international consortium to provide heavy-fuel oil and two proliferation-resistant nuclear reactors to North Korea.

After the international consortium suspended fuel oil shipments the following month, North Korea ejected IAEA inspectors and withdrew from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Since then, North Korea has restarted the reactor, claimed to have reprocessed the spent fuel, and implied that it is constructing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Talks Redux

Attempting to resolve the crisis, the United States and North Korea have participated in two rounds of multilateral talks before the recent discussions: an April 2003 trilateral meeting in Beijing and a first round of six-party talks in August. (See ACT, October 2003 and May 2003.)

Nevertheless, little substantive headway has been made as neither of the parties has budged much from its opening bid. The United States has insisted that North Korea dismantle its nuclear programs but refuses to “reward” Pyongyang for doing so. The Bush administration has not publicly presented any specific proposals for resolving the crisis, but it has said that relations between the two countries might improve if North Korea verifiably dismantles its nuclear program. Additionally, Washington has linked such an improvement to Pyongyang’s progress in other areas, such as human rights, and has not stated that North Korean nuclear concessions would be sufficient for the United States to enact any policy changes.

Wang said the U.S. delegation told North Korean diplomats during the recent talks that Washington has “no intention of invading…or attempting a regime change” in North Korea and hoped to “normalize relations…after its concerns were addressed.” Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee March 2 that the United States “could” normalize its relations with North Korea if the latter addresses such issues as conventional forces on the Korean peninsula and human rights.

Wang also stated that North Korea “reaffirmed its willingness to give up nuclear programs…[if] the U.S. abandoned its hostile policies toward the country” and “offered to freeze its nuclear activities as the first step” if other participants take “corresponding actions.”

North Korea has previously claimed that it would be willing to dismantle its nuclear program, beginning with a freeze in further nuclear developments, but only in a series of synchronized steps that coincide with the United States providing significant concessions. Pyongyang wants Washington to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations, lift economic sanctions, increase food aid, issue an assurance that it will not attack North Korea, complete the suspended reactor project, and resume fuel oil shipments that were part of the Agreed Framework. (See ACT, October 2003.) Pyongyang’s demand for unspecified “corresponding actions,” however, may signal some flexibility on this position.

In a statement following the talks, Japan’s Foreign Ministry identified two specific issues dividing North Korea and other participants. The first is that Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul want all of North Korea’s nuclear programs to be dismantled, but Pyongyang wishes to be allowed to have one for peaceful purposes. This demand may signal North Korea’s wish to revive the Agreed Framework’s currently suspended nuclear reactor agreement. The second issue is that Washington and the other two governments want Pyongyang to acknowledge having an uranium enrichment program, which it has so far refused to do.

Wang also said that the other parties “discussed the concept” of Washington’s oft-repeated demand that the North Koreans agree to the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling” of its nuclear programs but added that “no consensus has been achieved” on the specifics.

One sign suggesting that the talks were contentious is that the six parties failed to reach consensus on a joint document, leaving it to Wang to issue his statement instead. Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher told reporters March 4 that North Korea demanded unacceptable “last minute” changes which ruined the prospect for a joint document.

There were some small signs of progress. Wang noted that China, South Korea, and Russia “pledged to provide energy assistance to [North Korea] on certain conditions.” South Korea’s deputy foreign minister, Lee Soo-hyuck, issued a proposal at the talks to provide energy assistance to the North in return for a freeze of its nuclear program, along with a promise to dismantle it. Washington was consulted on Seoul’s proposal and did not oppose it, a State Department official told Arms Control Today March 25.

The decision to announce another round of talks at the end of the February meeting also contrasts with the situation following the previous round, when North Korea implied that it was uninterested in further talks. Although Pyongyang quickly agreed in principle to participate in another round, a date was announced only after months of intense diplomacy.

The participants are now trying to agree on a date for a working group meeting. China has circulated a “concept paper” about the group’s composition and agenda to the other five parties, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said March 18. The State Department official said that both of these items remain under discussion.

Describing the working group’s purpose, the official said the concept is designed to form a regular meeting process to “clarify questions and reach agreements on certain matters” before the next round of six-party talks.

The Aftermath

North Korea blamed U.S. intransigence for the talks’ lack of progress. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated Feb. 29 that the U.S. delegation would not address its concerns and “said that it was not willing to negotiate.” Instead, the U.S. officials “insisted…that it can discuss [North Korea’s] concerns only when it completely scraps its nuclear program,” the spokesperson said.

A March 29 statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) indicates that Pyongyang’s current position appears unchanged from the one expressed during the talks. However, North Korea seemed to issue a new demand in a March 8 KCNA statement, which said that the United States should withdraw its troops from South Korea if Washington’s position does not change.

Other participants also noted the distance between Washington and Pyongyang. Chinese Foreign Ministry official Liu Jianchao urged all participants to show “flexibility” in their positions during a Feb. 27 press conference, but added that the U.S. goal of North Korean nuclear dismantlement is “not enough” and that North Korea’s “concerns should be addressed.” Additionally, the South Korean official told Arms Control Today March 23 Washington and Seoul “share many important goals,” but there are “differences on tactics.”

For its part, the United States expressed satisfaction with the talks’ outcome, although North Korea apparently did not satisfy the U.S. requirement that it make a “fundamental choice” to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. A senior administration official briefing reporters just before the talks did not say how North Korea should demonstrate that it had made this choice. However, Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter told Arms Control Today March 12, without mentioning North Korea by name, that a “strategic commitment” to disarm included granting inspectors the sort of information and access that Libya has provided since announcing its intention to give up its nuclear weapons program in December.

State Department Director of Policy Planning Mitchell Reiss elaborated on this “choice” in a March 12 speech that appeared to signal a subtle shift in U.S. policy. Reiss explained that Washington’s “immediate objective” is for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program but added that the administration also seeks “the transformation of [North Korea] into a normal state.” Referencing Libya’s decision, Reiss argued that North Korea currently faces a “pivotal choice” where it can either pursue nuclear weapons or “transform its relations with the outside world.” Reiss suggested that North Korea’s economy and government could collapse if it chooses the former.

Reiss then described the actions North Korea may be expected to take if it wishes to become a “normal” state. These include adopting economic reforms and an efficient energy distribution policy. These demands supplement the list of non-nuclear issues that the Bush administration has linked to progress in bilateral relations.

The March 12 speech also contains what is probably the administration’s most specific articulation to date of the possible benefits that North Korea might receive if it complies with U.S. demands. These benefits include the end of economic sanctions, “removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, opportunities for economic and technical assistance” in such areas as agriculture and defense conversion, and “the normalization of relations.” However, Reiss’ speech did not specify which North Korean actions would be sufficient to realize these benefits and, apart from specific types of economic assistance, the speech added little to previous U.S. suggestions that it would normalize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. Additionally, most of the benefits Reiss discussed were part of the Agreed Framework, but current U.S. demands well exceed North Korea’s obligations under that agreement.

Furthermore, recent revelations from knowledgeable U.S. government sources appear to contradict the premises of Reiss’ statement. For example, U.S. intelligence agencies have stated that North Korea shows no signs of imminent collapse. (See ACT, December 2003.) Additionally, some U.S. and British officials have pointed out that Libya’s disarmament came about after years of diplomacy, and a former Clinton administration official wrote in January that the United States offered to lift sanctions on Libya in exchange for disarming. (See ACT, March 2004.)

North Korea has also dismissed elements of this policy. In his Feb. 29 statement, the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson described the linkage of normalizing relations with issues other than its nuclear program “absurd.” He also implied that a policy designed to force a collapse of the North Korean regime would actually give Pyongyang time to build its nuclear weapons arsenal.






A second round of six-party talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis apparently yielded only marginal progress on procedural issues with major substantive differences still dividing the United States and North Korea...

Despite Khan, Military Ties With Pakistan to Grow

Karen Yourish Roston and Delano D'Souza

President George W. Bush has lifted all sanctions against Pakistan and will designate the country a “major non-NATO ally”—an elite status that entitles recipients to preferential treatment in military-military operations. The two policy shifts come on the heels of February disclosures that A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, had for years been providing nuclear weapons technology to Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea.

Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Bush’s intent to designate Pakistan a major non-NATO ally on March 18, following a meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Kursheed Mehmood Kasuri in Islamabad. He said the move will facilitate cooperation between the United States and Pakistan in the war against terrorism.

The trip offered little insight into whether top Pakistani government and military officials were aware of or even involved in Khan’s network. Powell told reporters after a meeting with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he received some new information about the network during the discussion but that he wanted to “reflect on what he said to me and discuss it with some of my other colleagues back in Washington” before commenting on specifics.

During a March 30 hearing of the House International Relations Committee, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton addressed the issue. “Based on the information we have now, we believe that the proliferation activities that Mr. Khan confessed to recently...were activities that he was carrying on without the approval of the top levels of the government of Pakistan.”
Bolton did say, however, that he is certain that some government officials did participate in and benefit from Khan’s network.

The administration says the decision to bestow “non-NATO ally” status on Pakistan underscores the importance of the country’s role in the war against international terrorism, particularly in the continuing fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. With the designation, Pakistan will join an exclusive club of nations, including Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. Major non-NATO allies are given greater access to U.S. defense equipment and supplies and are allowed to participate in cooperative research and development programs with the United States.

Further cementing U.S.-Pakistani relations, Bush said March 24 that he is lifting all remaining sanctions imposed in 1999 after Musharraf seized power in a coup, although most of these had already been waived or eliminated during the past five years. Bush said the action would “facilitate the transition to democratic rule in Pakistan and is important to United States efforts to respond to, deter, or prevent acts of international terrorism.”

Not surprisingly, the news of Pakistan’s new status is not sitting well with the Indian government. Although relations between the two countries have been improving—a series of peace talks are scheduled over the next few months—India has long accused Pakistan of fomenting cross-border terrorism, and the two countries are locked in a strategic battle over Kashmir. The tit for tat continued, with Pakistan testing its Shaheen II intermediate-range ballistic missile on March 9 and India testing its Trident short-range surface-to-air missile at month’s end.

Following Powell’s announcement, Navtej Sarna, a spokesperson for Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, noted that “it is disappointing that [Powell] did not share with us this decision” when he was in India two days before he made the statement in Islamabad. “We are studying the details of this decision, which has significant implications for India-U.S. relations,” Sarna stated.

India goes to the polls from April 20 to May 10 in an election that is expected to keep the Vajpayee coalition government in power. Still, Indian officials worry that the U.S. decision to grant Pakistan special military status could affect Vajpayee’s position in the upcoming election. Anand Sharma, spokesperson for India’s main opposition Congress Party, has called the U.S. decision a “public repudiation” for New Delhi.

The United States is trying to dispel Indian government concerns over its decision to grant Pakistan major non-NATO ally status. During questioning from reporters March 22, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said the United States has “made it clear that we’re willing to explore the same possibility of similar cooperation with India.”









President George W. Bush has lifted all sanctions against Pakistan and will designate the country a “major non-NATO ally”—an elite status that entitles recipients to preferential treatment in military-military operations...

IAEA Praises Libya for Disarmament Efforts

Paul Kerr

Libya continues to move forward in fulfilling its December 2003 pledge to eliminate its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, as well as its long-range missiles. Perhaps in an effort to encourage other countries to follow Libya’s example, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors adopted a resolution March 10 finding that Libya’s past clandestine nuclear activities “constituted non-compliance” with its IAEA safeguards agreement, while also praising Libya’s subsequent cooperation and dismantlement efforts.

Although the board expressed “concern” about Tripoli’s secret nuclear efforts and called them a “breach of its obligation to comply with…its Safeguards Agreement,” it also commended the government’s “actions….to remedy the non-compliance.” IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the board March 8 that Libya has displayed “active cooperation” with the agency’s efforts to investigate its nuclear activities, allowing inspectors “unrestricted access to all requested locations” and providing the agency with relevant information.

Because of this cooperation, the resolution requested that ElBaradei report Libya’s noncompliance to the UN Security Council “for information purposes only.” The IAEA is required to report findings of noncompliance to the Security Council, which then has the option of taking action against the offending government. There is no indication that the Security Council intends to do so in Libya’s case.

The resolution’s finding of noncompliance is based on a Feb. 20 agency report which provided new details on how, starting in the 1980s, Libya failed to report a variety of nuclear activities to the IAEA—a violation of its safeguards agreement. Such agreements allow the IAEA to monitor states-parties’ compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which Libya joined in 1975. The IAEA first stated in December that Libya violated its safeguards agreement but provided no specifics.

Libya fulfilled another of its December commitments by signing an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement March 10. Such protocols expand the IAEA’s authority to investigate suspected clandestine nuclear activities. Libya had previously agreed to act as if the protocol were in force until it is ratified.

The IAEA is continuing to verify Libya’s claims and investigate its procurement network. ElBaradei is to issue a report on the agency’s progress in time for the board’s next meeting in June.

Disarmament Efforts Continue

International organizations, as well as U.S. and British weapons experts, have continued to assist Libya in accounting for and dismantling its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter told the House International Relations Committee March 10 that London and Washington, along with the IAEA, “arranged the removal” of fresh highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the center housing Libya’s Soviet-supplied, 10-megawatt Tajoura Research Reactor. The approximately 13 kg of 80 percent enriched fuel, which, according to an IAEA press release, “can…be processed and used to make a nuclear weapon,” was shipped to Russia March 8. Moscow originally supplied the fuel and “intends to blend down the HEU” into a form unsuitable for weapons use, according to an agency press release.

DeSutter added that, earlier in the month, the United States “removed” additional material related to Libya’s nuclear and missile programs. This material included centrifuge components, “all of Libya’s longest-range missiles,” and missile launchers. The Department of State said in January that it had removed centrifuge components, uranium hexafluoride, ballistic missile guidance systems, and nuclear weapons designs from Libya.

DeSutter also testified that the United States is developing programs “to redirect Libyan WMD and missile scientists, engineers, and technicians to productive civilian pursuits.” A State Department official told Arms Control Today March 22 that the United Kingdom “has the lead” on this effort, which is in the process of gathering information on the relevant Libyan personnel.

At the same time, international efforts to dismantle Libya’s chemical weapons program are progressing. On March 19, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—the organization that verifies compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention—verified Tripoli’s March 5 initial chemical weapons declaration. According to the OPCW, Libya declared “approximately 23 metric tonnes of mustard gas, 1,300 metric tonnes of precursor chemicals, …[an] inactivated chemical weapons production facility, …[and] two chemical weapons storage facilities.”

Between Feb. 27 and March 3, the OPCW also “verified… the complete destruction” of more than 3,500 unfilled bombs “designed to disperse chemical warfare agent,” according to organization press releases. The OPCW stated March 22 that it intends to verify Libya’s destruction of the remaining chemical agents.

The December Deal

A Libyan official has provided more details about Tripoli’s decision to come clean about its weapons activities. Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, told al-Hayat March 10 that Libya made its decision for “political, economic, cultural and military gains” and because it was “on a dangerous path…with the Western countries.” He also implied that Libya had been developing WMD for use in the event of a conflict with Israel, but progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process made such planning unnecessary.

Libya’s December decision resulted from a series of discussions begun after Libya approached the United Kingdom in March 2003 to resolve concerns that it was pursuing WMD. Bush administration officials have claimed credit for Libya’s cooperation, saying that it stemmed from two of their actions: last year’s U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the Proliferation Security Initiative, under which German and Italian authorities interdicted an October shipment of centrifuge components from the United Arab Emirates to Libya. DeSutter testified that Libya allowed U.S. and British experts “unprecedented access to some of their most secret WMD sites” after the October interdiction.

However, a former senior State Department official who led Clinton administration efforts in the Middle East, has asserted that Libya had long sought to renounce its unconventional weapons programs. In a March 10 Financial Times article, former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk wrote that Libya offered to give up its chemical weapons program during secret talks in 1999. The Clinton administration refused this offer, he said, because it placed a higher priority on persuading Tripoli to fulfill its remaining obligations under UN Security Council resolutions imposed in response to Libya’s bombings of two passenger airlines during the 1980s.

Other officials have also emphasized the role of prior diplomatic efforts in motivating Libya’s decision. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pointed out in December that London had been engaged in “diplomacy…going back for six or seven years” with Tripoli. In addition, Flynt Leverett, who previously helped oversee the Bush administration’s Middle East policy at the National Security Council, wrote in January that, during two years of diplomatic discussions beginning in 2001, the United States offered to lift U.S. sanctions on Libya in exchange for “a verifiable dismantling of Libya’s weapons projects.”

Whatever the reason for Tripoli’s decision, U.S. officials seem optimistic that the two countries’ bilateral relationship will improve. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns told the House International Relations Committee March 10 that “U.S.-Libyan relations are on a path of gradual, step-by-step normalization,” citing Libya’s progress in following through on its December commitments to dismantle its WMD programs and renounce support for terrorism. In order for this trend to continue, Burns added, Libya must continue this progress and make improvements in areas such as human rights. Burns visited Libya March 23 to discuss further efforts to normalize bilateral relations.

The United States currently does not have diplomatic relations with Libya and still maintains a number of economic sanctions imposed in response to Libya’s past WMD activities and support for terrorism. However, several steps have already been taken to improve relations. For example, the United States announced in February that it was removing all travel restrictions to Libya and allowing “U.S. companies with pre-sanctions holdings…to negotiate the terms of their re-entry into operations” there. Additionally, the United States has sent a diplomat to staff an interests section in the Belgian Embassy in Tripoli, the first official U.S. representation in more than two decades.

Other steps may be taken soon. Another State Department official interviewed March 22 said that “there is talk” about asking Congress to strike Libya from the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. Under that law, the United States can punish foreign companies for making certain investments in Libya, or providing goods or services that contribute to Libya’s ability to acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.

IAEA on Libya

A Feb. 20 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spelled out Libya's failures to comply with its safeguards agreement with the agency.

Perhaps the most important activities Libya failed to declare are related to its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Tripoli began the program in the early 1980s and revived it in 1995. According to the IAEA, Libya failed to report that it imported uranium hexafluoride, along with other nuclear material, as recently as 2001. When fed into centrifuges, uranium hexafluoride can be used to produce either low-enriched uranium (LEU) for use as fuel in civilian nuclear reactors or highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used in nuclear weapons. U.S. officials first disclosed the program in December, stating that Libya had centrifuge components as well as complete centrifuges but no operating enrichment facility. Libya acquired its centrifuge components from foreign suppliers, including the network run by Pakistani official Abdul Qadeer Khan. (See ACT, March 2004).

Additionally, the agency said that Libya did not report design information for a nine-centrifuge pilot facility. The IAEA is in the process of verifying Libya's claim that it did not introduce any nuclear material into the facility.

The report further noted that Libya failed to disclose the design information for a facility which it used to conduct clandestine uranium-conversion experiments. Natural uranium must be converted into uranium hexafluoride gas before it can be enriched. Libya acknowledges that it produced some uranium compounds, but not uranium hexafluoride.

The Feb. 20 report also disclosed for the first time that, between 1984 and 1990, Libya secretly irradiated small amounts of uranium in its Soviet-supplied 10-megawatt Tajura Research Reactor and separated plutonium from some of the resulting product. The reactor was under IAEA safeguards. Separating plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel is another method for producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.







Libya continues to move forward in fulfilling its December 2003 pledge to eliminate its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, as well as its long-range missiles...

Israel, India Sign Major Arms Deal

Wade Boese

With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.

Under the contract inked March 5, Israel will install its Phalcon system on three Russian-supplied aircraft for future delivery to India. The Phalcon is an advanced communications, electronic intelligence, and radar system able to provide simultaneous long-range tracking of multiple air and surface targets. The first of the three aircraft will be transferred to India within three to four years.

Israel has been marketing the Phalcon system overseas for several years but has met stiff U.S. resistance. In July 2000, Israel cancelled the proposed sale of four Phalcon systems to China under extreme pressure from Washington, which worried that the system might tilt the military edge in the Taiwan Strait away from Taipei and too much in Beijing’s favor. The United States further called upon Israel to delay a possible deal with India but dropped its objections in 2002 as relations improved between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani government officials expressed their displeasure with the new deal but did so in more reserved tones than usual. One Pakistani diplomatic source told Arms Control Today March 22 that the sale would exacerbate the already asymmetrical conventional-force balance between India and Pakistan and would compel Islamabad to look at ways to lessen the deal’s impact. It is too early to know what those measures might be, the source said.








With tacit U.S. blessing, Israel has finalized a $1.1 billion sale of three advanced airborne early-warning aircraft to India. Washington had previously urged the two countries to postpone the deal due to concerns that it might incite Pakistan.

GAO Says Feds Lax in Countering Cruise Missile, UAV Threats

Wade Boese

A congressional watchdog has charged key federal agencies with complacency in addressing the growing danger presented by the global spread of cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), provoking a round of dissent from the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and State.

At a March 9 congressional hearing, representatives of the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Congressional Research Service, the State and Commerce Departments, and the Pentagon offered conflicting views on the adequacy of measures to prevent cruise missiles and UAVs from ending up in the hands of terrorists or hostile states. The hearing before a House Committee on Government Reform subcommittee was convened to discuss a January 2004 GAO report that found U.S. and international trade controls on such weapon systems inadequate.

GAO, which conducts investigations for Congress, estimated that at least 70 states currently possess cruise missiles and some 40 states own UAVs. Most of the world’s roughly 75,000 cruise missiles are anti-ship models with short ranges and small payload capabilities. However, GAO reported that at least a dozen states, including six defined as “countries of concern,” are working on land-attack cruise missiles, which could be used to strike U.S. territory from forward launching areas, such as from the deck of a ship.

Cruise missiles and UAVs pose a different type of challenge for defenses than ballistic missiles, which are only powered during the first few minutes after launch as they ascend to high altitudes and then rely on gravity to reach their target. Cruise missiles and UAVs are powered throughout their entire flight and can fly and maneuver at low altitudes, making them hard to track and shoot down. The flight characteristics of cruise missiles and UAVs are also very similar to planes, making it hard for battlefield radars and defenses to determine whether an incoming object is an enemy projectile or a friendly aircraft.

The Patriot missile defense system’s record in Iraq last year underscored the difficulty that militaries face in trying to defend against cruise missiles. Although Patriot systems destroyed nine Iraqi missiles, no Iraqi cruise missiles were successfully intercepted. Moreover, Patriot systems mistakenly blew up two friendly fighter aircraft and targeted a third. A September 2003 Army report assessing the Patriot’s record stated, “[T]he ability of these older cruise missiles to penetrate friendly airspace and reach their targets should serve as a warning to joint and Army leaders that the emerging cruise missile threat must be addressed.”

The ability of cruise missiles and UAVs to fly at specific altitudes and speeds makes them suitable for dispersing chemical or biological weapons. Because of their relatively smaller size, cruise missiles and UAVs are not ideal for carrying nuclear warheads. The United States and Russia are the only two states known to have nuclear cruise missiles. China is also believed to be developing a nuclear-capable cruise missile.

In its report, GAO warned that federal agencies are not conducting enough checks on U.S. exports of cruise missiles, UAVs, and related technologies to make sure that they are not falling into the wrong hands. Reviewing exports between fiscal years 1998 and 2002, GAO reported that the State Department followed up on only four of 786 licenses that it issued for cruise missile and UAV technologies and the Pentagon did not do a single check on more than 500 cruise missiles shipped to other states. The Commerce Department had a similar record, conducting end-use visits for only 1 percent of the nearly 2,500 missile-related export licenses it approved.

Although officials from the three departments all agreed with a GAO recommendation that more post-export checks be carried out, they defended past practices at the March 9 hearing. They observed that GAO did not report any evidence indicating that previous U.S. exports had contributed to or abetted proliferation.

Yet, Joseph Christoff, the director of GAO’s international affairs and trade office that conducted the study, stated that response misses the point. “While the departments contend that there is no evidence of wrongdoing, their conclusion is based on the small [number of] (33) post-shipment verifications they conducted over a four-year period,” Christoff wrote in a March 13 response to questions from Arms Control Today.

General Tome Walters Jr., who directs the Pentagon agency overseeing arms sales to foreign governments, claimed the United States only sells weapons to friends and that U.S. exports are not the problem. Walters, who said his agency has not exported any UAVs, asserted that the Pentagon has exported or agreed to export almost 200 fewer cruise missiles during the reviewed period than GAO claimed. Past cruise missile deliveries went to the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Taiwan, according to Walters. He said there are pending deliveries to Oman, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Among others, GAO identified Egypt, Kuwait, and Israel as additional U.S. cruise missile recipients.

The managing director of the State Department’s office of defense trade controls, Robert Maggi, faulted the GAO review for not taking into account other processes, such as pre-license checks, to vet potential buyers. However, GAO pointed out that the State Department only carried out six such inquiries for its 786 approved cruise missile- and UAV-related licenses.

GAO further charged in its report that it discovered a loophole in U.S. export controls that could enable proliferators to acquire cruise missile and UAV technologies surreptitiously. The U.S. government does not explicitly control all technologies related to cruise missiles and UAVs because they are so widely available and have legitimate commercial uses. However, a “catch-all” requires that even items not appearing on export control lists be restricted if destined for specific states or programs. The U.S. catch-all currently applies to requests from 20 states and 12 foreign missile projects.

Citing the fact that a New Zealand man was able to purchase uncontrolled items to build a cruise missile, GAO concluded that the catch-all is too narrow.

Matthew Borman, the deputy assistant secretary for export administration at the Commerce Department, said the catch-all is currently under review but questioned GAO’s New Zealand example. “Our engineers…are skeptical that a functioning cruise missile could be constructed out of uncontrolled parts and components,” Borman stated.

In a written response to the GAO report, the Commerce Department, which is responsible for promoting American business exports, also responded, “Any modifications to the catch-all policy should be carefully considered in order to ensure that the controls protect U.S. national security, but avoid unnecessary burdens on U.S. trade.”

GAO did not confine its criticisms to just U.S. export controls. It also looked at cruise missile and UAV control efforts by the 33-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the 33-member Wassenaar Arrangement—both of which the United States belongs to. MTCR calls on its members to restrict exports of missiles and UAVs capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, while the Wassenaar Arrangement specifies missile, aerospace, and dual-use items that its members are expected to control. Both MTCR and Wassenaar are voluntary and operate by consensus.

Although the two regimes have increased attention and controls on cruise missile and UAV sales over the past few years, GAO said their effectiveness is limited by the fact that not all exporters of these types of arms are regime members. For instance, China and Israel do not currently belong to either regime, although China is exploring MTCR membership and Israel has committed itself to abide by that regime’s guidelines. Iran, India, and Taiwan are also nonmember states that manufacture cruise missiles and may soon be looking to export them.

Moreover, GAO pointed out that not even members always agree on what constitutes an appropriate deal. France is a member of both regimes, but it went ahead with a sale of its Black Shaheen cruise missile to the UAE despite U.S. protests. Similarly, Russian assistance to India in developing the Brahmos cruise missile has raised concerns among some of Moscow’s fellow MTCR members.

GAO also knocked the regimes for not facilitating timely and efficient exchanges of information between members on their potential deals and export denials. Delays in sharing such information could prevent a member from raising concerns it may have about another’s transactions.





A congressional watchdog has charged key federal agencies with complacency in addressing the growing danger presented by the global spread of cruise missiles and...

Controversy Persists Over Failure to Find Iraqi WMD

Paul Kerr

More than one year after U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq with the announced intention to rid that country of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the failure to find such nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons continues to stir controversy in the United States and overseas.

The debate was fueled in March by the publication of “Disarming Iraq,” Hans Blix’s insider account which details the back-room diplomacy leading up to the onset of the war. Blix, the former executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), charged that U.S. officials ignored UN weapons inspectors’ pre-invasion reports that there was no evidence that Iraq possessed WMD or had reconstituted its weapons programs.

Despite the inspectors’ reports, Bush administration officials “wanted to come to the conclusion that there were weapons” in Iraq, Blix told NBC’s Today show March 15. Blix’s depiction of the U.S. attitude toward Iraq’s unaccounted-for weapons is consistent with U.S. officials’ professed skepticism about the efficacy of UN weapons inspections, as well as with previous statements from administration officials indicating that the Sept.11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States lowered their tolerance for the perceived risk of Iraqi WMD acquisition. (See ACT, January/February 2004 and April 2003.)

David Kay, former top adviser to the U.S.-led search effort, and Blix have argued that Iraq destroyed its weapons stockpiles during the 1990s—a claim bolstered by a Feb. 27 UNMOVIC report indicating that almost no weapons of mass destruction were discovered in Iraq after 1994.

Blix pointed out in a March 15 FOX News interview that the uncertainty about Iraq’s suspected WMD stemmed from its failure to account for those weapons destroyed outside the presence of UN inspectors. Baghdad had still not accounted for these weapons as of the invasion. Rather than admitting uncertainty, however, U.S. and British officials simply counted any unaccounted-for weapons or related materials as weapons that actually existed. (See ACT, March 2004.)

In a March 5 interview with Arms Control Today, Kay attributed this belief to Iraq’s past noncompliance and deception of weapons inspectors, which had encouraged U.S. and British officials to assume the worst about its behavior. Nevertheless, Kay said that Saddam Hussein’s regime likely did not offer proof of the weapons’ destruction for two reasons. The first is that some were destroyed during the “chaos” following the 1991 Persian Gulf War and its war with Iran during the 1980s. The second is that Iraqi officials were “embarrassed to admit” to some of the methods used to destroy the weapons. For example, Iraq disposed of “biological agents in ways that were…dangerous to the health of people in Baghdad” he said.

Beyond an ingrained mindset, Blix and Kay have blamed poor coalition intelligence for their inaccurate assessments of Iraq’s arsenal of unconventional weapons. Blix said in a March 16 CNN interview that his inspectors received useful coalition intelligence on only three occasions, arguing that U.S. and British reliance on defectors as intelligence sources likely accounted for the divergence between the U.S. and UN assessments of Iraq’s weapons activities. The UN inspectors did not use defectors as sources, he added.

CIA director George Tenet acknowledged in February that some U.S. intelligence came from defectors who were sometimes unreliable. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also stated in a March 5 speech that these human sources “were apparently less reliable than the [intelligence community] thought” and suggested that “other potential intelligence sources [indicating that Iraq had no WMD programs] may have been dismissed.”

Intelligence Controversy

As investigations into U.S. intelligence on Iraq continue, increased attention has been focused on the role of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for Policy in disseminating raw intelligence about Iraqi WMD to senior administration officials. Former OSD staff member Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Karen Kwiatkowski wrote in a March 10 article for Salon magazine that personnel in the office had a close relationship with Iraqi defectors and produced “talking points” for briefing more senior administration officials that included information at variance with U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s suspected weapons programs.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith said in a recently-released June 2003 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) that he had tasked some OSD staff with reviewing existing intelligence concerning terrorist networks. Feith stated in a press briefing that same month that these staff members found “linkages between Iraq and al Qaeda” and also “looked at” WMD. Additionally, Feith’s letter revealed that OSD personnel briefed staff from the National Security Council and Office of the Vice President on their findings regarding Iraq’s suspected links to terrorists. Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 9 that he was unaware such a briefing had taken place.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announced in February that they would look into Feith’s efforts in their ongoing investigation into the intelligence controversy.

The OSD briefing is not the only time that administration officials have appeared to ignore the CIA’s judgments. For instance, Tenet told the committee that the CIA did not approve a Jan. 20, 2003, report to Congress signed by President George W. Bush which referenced Iraq’s “attempts to acquire uranium.” Although Tenet had succeeded in stopping several senior administration officials’ attempts to insert this reference into other presidential speeches, Bush still made the charge during his 2003 State of the Union address. Subsequent revelations have disproved this claim. (See ACT, September 2003.)

Reports that administration officials pressured intelligence analysts to alter their conclusions about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have also been controversial. In her March speech, Harman stated that “some analysts” who worked on the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iraq threat told her that they believed that the “decision to go to war had already been made [in the fall of 2002], and that their mindset was to advise military commanders” on the dangers of Iraqi battlefield WMD. Harman added that analysts’ belief that they “had to come down on one side or the other” on the question of Iraqi weapons generated “categorical statements” about Iraq’s weapons capabilities in the NIE. Cheney has acknowledged questioning intelligence analysts frequently but denies pressuring them.






More than one year after U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq with the announced intention to rid that country of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the failure to...

Bush, ElBaradei, Discuss Proposals of Nuclear Nonproliferation Talks

Wade Boese

Diplomats from more than 100 states are expected to convene for nearly two weeks beginning April 26 to assess what future measures might be taken to shore up the beleaguered nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In anticipation, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mohamed ElBaradei, the United Nations’ top nuclear expert, met in mid-March to discuss possible proposals.

Although the nuclear nonproliferation regime was recently buoyed by Libya’s December 2003 renunciation of its nuclear weapons program, the exposure of illicit Iranian nuclear activities and the disclosure of Abdul Qadeer Khan’s black market nuclear network highlighted the regime’s ills.

With the help of the Pakistani-based Khan network, NPT states-parties Libya and Iran pursued secret nuclear work for years without being caught. North Korea, which announced its withdrawal from the NPT last year, also conducted nuclear-related dealings with Khan. (See ACT, March 2004.)

These revelations have spurred calls for reform from Washington, other world capitals, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for making sure states do not illegally use their peaceful nuclear programs to build atomic bombs covertly.

At Washington’s invitation, ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, visited the United States March 15-18 to discuss proposals for remedying the ailing nonproliferation regime. ElBaradei met with Bush, top officials from the CIA and the Departments of Energy and State, and members of Congress.

ElBaradei summed up his message to the president in a March 18 PBS interview as “[T]his is a different ball game and we have to revise the rules.”

Possible revisions discussed at the meetings included cleaning up and securing weapons-usable material worldwide, strengthening export controls, and denying uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them. Currently, 15 states possess such capabilities, which are legal under the NPT but necessary for making nuclear weapons. ElBaradei does not want to see that total grow.

Although Bush and ElBaradei share many of the same concerns and believe that the threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons demands that the past rules of the nonproliferation regime be updated, they have yet to announce a set of agreed specific proposals or general strategy.

Both men have laid out initiatives separately: Bush in a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University and ElBaradei in a series of written pieces and interviews. (See ACT, March 2004 and November 2003.) Bush’s proposals have stressed getting individual states to do a better job of clamping down on their own nuclear materials and technologies, while ElBaradei has urged that states subject their nuclear programs to more stringent multinational controls. There is some overlap, such as ending the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in reactors around the globe.

The forthcoming NPT Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting, which is scheduled from April 26 to May 7 in New York, will likely see a full airing of proposals to amend the nonproliferation regime. Indonesian Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat will serve as the meeting’s chairman.

Treaty compliance and enforcement will be the central themes pushed at the PrepCom by the U.S. delegation, which will be headed by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton.

In a March 12 interview with Arms Control Today, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter said, “Verification and especially compliance are going to be important topics at the PrepCom.” The reason, she explained, is because the treaty “has been under assault by
North Korea, Iran, and other countries of concern.”

If past PrepComs are any guide to what can be expected, the United States will not be the only state reprimanding other NPT members for failing to live up to their commitments. In fact, the United States will face the same charges.

Many states have previously alleged that Washington, as well as Beijing, London, Paris, and Moscow, have not done enough to reduce the role and size of their nuclear arsenals. Article VI of the NPT calls upon all treaty members to work toward disarmament.

In 2000, these five capitals joined in agreeing to 13 steps to advance toward that goal, but they have made mixed progress in fulfilling their pledges. For example, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear testing, has not been brought into force, and negotiation of a treaty to end the production of HEU and plutonium for weapons purposes has not been initiated even though a five-year deadline was set for its completion. The Bush administration is now reviewing whether it supports such negotiations. (See ACT, March 2004.)

However, the administration contends it has a solid NPT record, citing its 2002 treaty with Russia to reduce their nuclear forces to fewer than 2,200 deployed strategic warheads each by the end of 2012. “I think we can point toward greater progress under this administration in moving toward the objectives of Article VI than can be pointed to under the entire history of the NPT,” Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker asserted in a Jan. 21 interview with Arms Control Today.

DeSutter said, “I think it would be a very sad thing given the assault we’re seeing on the NPT by virtue of the noncompliance that we’ve got if countries focused on the United States instead of where the problem is.”





Diplomats from more than 100 states are expected to convene for nearly two weeks beginning April 26 to assess what future measures might be taken to shore up the beleaguered...

IAEA Condemns Iran—Again

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors has again adopted a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to cooperate fully with the agency’s investigation into its suspected nuclear weapons program, raising the stakes in Tehran’s dealings with the United Nations’ nuclear arm and, indirectly, the United States. The resolution calls on Iran to intensify its cooperation with the agency but defers possible action against Tehran until the next board meeting in June.

Although the resolution, adopted March 13, acknowledges that Iran has recently been “actively cooperating” with the IAEA, it also notes that “Iran’s cooperation so far has fallen short of what is required [and] calls on Iran to continue and intensify its cooperation.” A February report from IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei detailed Tehran’s failure to disclose several nuclear activities, despite past promises to comply with IAEA resolutions requiring such disclosure. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The board reserved its harshest language for Iran’s failure to previously disclose a research and development program for an advanced type of gas centrifuge, known as the “P-2.” The IAEA learned about that program this winter, even though Iran had claimed in October to have given a complete accounting of its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Gas centrifuges are used to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for use in nuclear reactors, but they may also produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for use as the explosive material in a nuclear weapon. Iran had previously disclosed a large enrichment program which uses a simpler type of centrifuge, the “P-1.”

ElBaradei told the board March 8 that this failing was inconsistent with Iran’s October pledge to provide the IAEA with all information about its nuclear programs, terming it “a setback to Iran’s stated policy of transparency.” As part of that agreement, Iran also agreed to sign an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and suspend its uranium-enrichment program. (See ACT, November 2003.) Iran signed the protocol in December 2003 and has pledged to act as if the agreement were in force until it is ratified.

IAEA safeguards agreements are to ensure that states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) do not divert civilian nuclear activities to military purposes. Iran maintains that its program is solely for peaceful purposes. Additional protocols expand the IAEA’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs and increase the number of nuclear-related activities that member states must declare to the agency. The March resolution “urges” Tehran’s “prompt ratification” of the protocol.

Iran’s director-general for international political affairs, Amir Zamaninia, told the board March 13 that Iran omitted its advanced centrifuge program from its October report to the IAEA because the relevant “technical” personnel thought its pledge only required Tehran to report information about less-advanced centrifuges they had tested using nuclear material. Iran intended to report its more advanced program in accordance with its obligations under the additional protocol, he said.

The resolution also “calls on Iran to be pro-active in taking all necessary steps...to resolve all outstanding issues” outlined in ElBaradei’s February report. In addition to the advanced centrifuge program, these include Tehran’s experiments with polonium, a radioactive isotope that can be used to trigger a chain reaction in a nuclear weapon; the “nature and scope” of its laser-based uranium-enrichment program; and “LEU and HEU contamination” at two facilities associated with Iran’s centrifuge program.

Iran’s hesitant cooperation with the IAEA has caused concern since ElBaradei first visited Iran’s main uranium-enrichment facility in February 2003. For months, Iran lagged in providing information about its nuclear activities to the agency and in granting inspectors full access to facilities.

The resolution also “calls on” Tehran to maintain and expand its October commitment to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities. According to ElBaradei’s February report, Iran had suspended most of its enrichment-related activities but continued to assemble centrifuges and manufacture related components. Iran agreed in February to stop both of these activities.


The days leading up to the resolution’s adoption were contentious, the final version being the product of a compromise between the United States and other board members. For example, a U.S. Department of State official told Arms Control Today March 18 that Washington wanted the resolution to condemn Iran’s actions in stronger terms and include the fact, discussed in ElBaradei’s February report, that “military industrial organizations” own “most” of the workshops associated with Iran’s centrifuge programs. Washington, however, is “satisfied” with the resolution, the official said.

In contrast to its lobbying efforts prior to the last IAEA resolution concerning Iran, the United States did not push for the board to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement. Such a finding would have required the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. The State Department official said, however, that the board should do so “at the appropriate time.” The official did not specify what actions Washington hoped the Security Council might take, but argued that they could include issuing a Security Council President’s statement or imposing economic sanctions.

The last resolution, adopted in November, employed language intended to avoid the requirement to send the matter to the Security Council, while conveying that Iran’s secret nuclear activities had violated its safeguards agreement. (See ACT, December 2003.)

The board referred North Korea to the Security Council last year in response to its refusal to cooperate with the agency, but the council has yet to take any action.

For its part, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported March 17 that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told reporters that Iran is “dissatisfied” with the resolution but will continue to cooperate with the IAEA. Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA had suggested March 10 that Iran might review its cooperation with the agency if Tehran did not approve of the resolution, according to IRNA.

The ambassador caused additional friction March 12 when he announced Iran was postponing an upcoming IAEA inspection. Although the ambassador explained that the delay was necessary because of the approaching Iranian New Year, Khatami indicated March 17 that its decision was a reaction against the resolution. ElBaradei announced March 15 that Tehran would allow the inspectors to visit March 27.

The State Department official said that even this two-week delay was “regrettable” because Tehran could use the time to cover up evidence of nuclear activities. The official added that Washington believes Tehran is continuing to conceal part of a secret nuclear weapons program and observed that Tehran only changed its stance on the recent inspections “after some other countries intervened.” The United States has repeatedly changed Iran with having a nuclear weapons program.

Iran also raised eyebrows when Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi stated that Iran will “definitely resume [uranium] enrichment when our relations with the agency become normal,” IRNA reported March 10. Iran has repeatedly emphasized the temporary nature of its suspension agreement, but Kharrazi’s statement was one of the strongest to date on the matter. Iran is legally allowed to enrich uranium under the NPT, but the United States wants a permanent halt to these activities because of concerns that Iran will be able to use its facilities to produce fissile material covertly.

Next Steps

The resolution requests ElBaradei to issue a report on Iran’s activities “before the end of May” and states that it will consider the agency’s “progress in verifying Iran’s declarations,” as well as a response to Iran’s “omissions.” The IAEA is also continuing to investigate Iran’s foreign suppliers, which includes a network headed by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The State Department official said that the United States will continue to allow the IAEA to take the lead on resolving concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. In a March 18 interview on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, ElBaradei said that he had suggested to U.S. officials during a March visit to the White House that they begin a direct “dialogue” with Tehran. The State Department official said Washington rejects this approach because the appropriate steps for Tehran to take are outlined in the IAEA resolutions and bilateral dialogue would undermine the IAEA process.





The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors has again adopted a resolution criticizing Iran for failing to cooperate fully with the agency’s investigation into its...

Top Military Brass Insists Missile Defense Ready to be Deployed

Wade Boese

Despite intense grilling from Senate Democrats and an acknowledgment that the system has yet to be fully tested, top Pentagon officials have not retreated from claims that a planned defense against ballistic missiles would be effective when it is deployed later this year.

“The analysis that has been done clearly shows that this will bring a capability, admittedly rudimentary and initial, but a capability that is of military utility,” Admiral James Ellis, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 11.

President George W. Bush declared Dec. 17, 2002, that the United States would begin operating the initial elements of a projected multilayered defense against ballistic missiles in 2004.

The president’s announcement came only six days after the proposed system had failed in its latest attempt to destroy a mock warhead in space. That failure dropped the system’s intercept record to five hits and three misses, and no similar tests have been conducted since.

Despite the system’s small number of intercept tests, the Pentagon is pushing ahead with plans to fulfill the president’s deployment order, which the Pentagon has since said would take place in fiscal year 2004, which ends Sept. 30.

Beginning as early as June, six ground-based missile interceptors are to be deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and another four interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. By the end of 2005, the ground-based force will include 20 interceptors. Another 10 ship-based missile interceptors designed to counter short- and medium-range ballistic missiles are also to be deployed by that time.

Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the official in charge of developing U.S. missile defense systems, told the armed services panel that the interceptors will be available for emergency use and testing purposes.

Kadish cautioned senators against predicting the proposed ground-based system’s future performance capabilities solely by its intercept record. He explained that MDA relies more extensively on models and computer simulations to gauge how the system will function and said that these tools suggest the defenses will work properly.

One Pentagon witness offered a less certain perspective under pointed questioning from Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). Thomas Christie, the Pentagon official charged with overseeing final testing of U.S. weapon systems, said it was not clear that the system would be able to destroy a real North Korean missile because of the immature nature of existing models and simulations. A North Korean attack is what the Pentagon routinely postulates as the near-term threat that the system will face, although Pyongyang has yet to flight-test a missile capable of reaching the continental United States.

Christie defended the Pentagon’s current deployment plan as necessary so that the system could be subjected to more challenging testing. He said that system components had to be put into the field so they could be tested in ways that more closely resemble real scenarios and involve real troops as operators, or what the Pentagon calls “operational testing.”

However, when Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked whether the Pentagon had any operational tests planned, Christie said, “As of right now, there are no plans for that.” Both Christie and Kadish said that some tests have had operational aspects even though no dedicated operational tests have taken place or are scheduled.

Responding to questions from Arms Control Today, MDA spokesperson Rick Lehner stated March 19 that no plans currently exist to launch missile interceptors out of Fort Greely for testing purposes, although he noted such a possibility “will be considered in the future.”

In addition, a February 2004 report by the General Accounting Office, which does investigations for Congress, noted that the Pentagon has no plans to involve the primary land-based radar supporting the Fort Greely missile interceptors in a flight test scenario for another three years. The study further reported that “none of the components of the initial defensive capability to be fielded in September 2004…has been flight-tested in its deployed configuration.”

Opportunities to flight-test the system’s components have been cut back. MDA recently halved the number of intercept attempts it would conduct this year before the September deadline down to one. Since the summer of 2000, MDA has dropped seven intercept tests.

Christie admitted that he would like to see more testing done to increase confidence in the system, but he said that nothing in past testing suggests the system is bound to fail. “I see no technological issues that have jumped up that says we’re not going to be able to do this or that,” Christie testified.

At the same time, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has expressed concerns about the program’s schedule this year in a February report. OMB stated the system’s “cost, schedule, and performance targets are very ambitious and potentially carry a high degree of development risk.”

The aggressive deployment plan reflects the Department of Defense’s new thinking that it is better to put some capability into the field and improve it incrementally rather than keeping a system in development until it is perfected. Some Pentagon officials have described the rationale more simply as “something is better than nothing.”

Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) characterized the Pentagon’s new approach as “gross negligence.” Commenting on the proposed deployment, Dayton said, “It would be unthinkable by corporate prudence, by fiscal sanity, by government oversight, and by public common sense to be undertaking this.”

Further irking some Democratic senators is that the Pentagon’s current fiscal year 2005 budget requests funding for interceptors beyond the first 20. The Pentagon is seeking $470 million to begin preparing for a third set of 10 missile interceptors to be deployed beginning in 2006 and $35 million for another 10 missile interceptors that might be stationed at an undetermined third site. In his prepared testimony, Kadish wrote the third site would be “outside” the United States.

Levin warned Pentagon officials that U.S. law prohibits building weapons systems that have not been operationally tested at a rate surpassing what is known as low-rate production. The officials claimed that current interceptor production rates do not exceed that threshold. A weapons system will generally be produced at a lesser pace than what is possible (low-rate production) until a final commitment is made to procure the system, at which time more items will be manufactured at a greater tempo known as full-rate production.





Despite intense grilling from Senate Democrats and an acknowledgment that the system has yet to be fully tested, top Pentagon officials...

Congress Critical of Bush Nuclear Weapons Budget

Karen Yourish Roston

As they make their annual rounds on Capitol Hill on behalf of the president’s proposed budget, Bush administration officials are finding themselves in the hot seat defending President George W. Bush’s fiscal year 2005 request for the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP). Lawmakers are also peeved that they have yet to receive the administration’s overdue nuclear stockpile report.

Arms Control Today reported last month that the president’s 2005 budget proposal lays out a five-year schedule for RNEP that foresees production of the new weapon by the end of fiscal year 2009. (See ACT, March 2004.) Administration officials maintain the program is still in the study phase and that no decision has been made to develop or produce the weapon, but they have not convinced key members of Congress.

“I find it really hard to conceive of any circumstances under which this country would even use a nuclear weapon again,” Rep. David Hobson (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations energy and water subcommittee, told Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham at a March 11 hearing. “Despite those constraints, [the Department of Energy] seems to think they should spend another half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ dollars to explore and test the concept of Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator.”

During a March 23 hearing, Hobson’s Senate counterpart, Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), traditionally a staunch supporter of the Energy Department, told Linton Brooks, head of the department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), that he was “surprised” to see nearly $500 million provided for the RNEP in out-year funding.

Moreover, both lawmakers expressed frustration at the administration’s failure to deliver a nuclear stockpile plan to Congress.

“This kind of, quote, Money is no object, unquote, thinking might have been the norm for the nuclear weapons complex during the Cold War years, but I think it’s completely out of touch with the political and fiscal realities that we face today,” Hobson said. “[U]ntil we receive a revised stockpile plan from [the Department of Defense] that shows real change in the size and the composition of the stockpile, and until [the Energy Department] re-calibrates its planning, workforce facilities, and budget to support the smaller stockpile, I do not believe that we should spend our limited budget resources on expansion of NNSA’s nuclear weapons activities.”

Facing similar prodding from Domenici, Brooks responded that the report “is being worked on, literally, as we speak, but because of the importance, I think this will have to be personally approved by the president and I can’t predict how long that will take.”

Still, Brooks did clarify at a March 24 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces that, although the United States plans to "substantially" reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads as called for by the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), it will retain a significant number of additional warheads in storage. He said “sufficient warheads” need to be retained “to augment the operationally deployed force in the event that world events require a more robust deterrent posture.”

Signed May 24, 2002, by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, SORT requires the United States and Russia each to reduce its number of deployed strategic warheads from today’s 5,000-6,000 to no more than 2,200 by the end of 2012, when the treaty will expire. The agreement requires that the warheads be removed from their delivery systems but does not require their destruction, permitting each side to keep as many warheads and delivery vehicles as they want for future use. Washington intends to store enough so it could field up to 4,600 warheads in as little as three years after the treaty ends. Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged in Senate testimony in July 2002 that the accord does not limit the amount of warheads either country can possess. “The treaty will allow you to have as many warheads as you want,” Powell stated. (See ACT, September 2002.)

Even as he battled over the stockpile plan, Brooks characterized RNEP as “the single most contentious issue in our budget.” He said the out-year projections are included in the budget request only “to preserve the president’s option,” should he decide to move beyond the study stage.

“[T]here is a clear military utility to this weapon,” Brooks stated. “[D]espite this obvious utility…we will move beyond the study stage only if the president approves and if funds are authorized and appropriated by Congress.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service noted in a March 8 report that the president’s 2005 budget plan casts “serious doubt” on administration claims that the RNEP is just a study.

Nuclear earth penetrator weapons, sometimes called “bunker busters,” burrow deeply into the ground before detonating, increasing their ability to destroy hardened underground targets. In May 2003, the Air Force began studying modifications to convert existing B61 or B83 nuclear bombs to an earth penetrator configuration.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, argued in a March 8 letter to Brooks that “the planning and budgeting for further steps in the…process in the next five years speaks to a clear intent to develop these modified nuclear weapons at a time when the feasibility study has not been completed and the Department of Defense has not submitted a request for this weapon.”

Some in Congress are more forgiving. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, said during the March 24 hearing that the administration is “kind of caught between the rock and a hard spot.…[I]f you don’t put in the money, then somehow or the other they think you’re hiding it. If you do put in and you save for it, then you can be accused of trying” to move ahead with the program without congressional approval.

“I’ve looked at this figure, too, and that, obviously, sticks out there,” Allard continued. “But, on the other hand, I think we need to have some estimate in case we decide to move ahead with [RNEP] about where those future costs will be.”

Corrected online August 29, 2008. See explanation.





As they make their annual rounds on Capitol Hill on behalf of the president’s proposed budget, Bush administration officials are finding themselves...


Subscribe to RSS - Press Releases