President George W. Bush’s 2008 fiscal year budget request calls for more cuts in programs related to nonproliferation activities in the former Soviet Union, although some individual threat reduction programs would see gains or maintain funding.
Some proposed reductions reflect the winding down or closure of programs, while other cuts may reflect a shift in priorities away from traditional U.S.-Russian programs such as Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) to more regional or international programs.
Department of Defense
Money requested for the CTR program in the Department of Defense budget is down again this year to $348 million. The $24 million reduction for fiscal year 2008 follows a $44 million cut the previous year. The CTR program seeks to better control the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) complex in the former Soviet Union by securing chemical, biological, and nuclear facilities and finding employment for former weapons scientists and technicians.
The Pentagon budget would increase spending by $75 million in fiscal year 2008 for biological threat reduction efforts, including securing pathogens and facilities and setting up monitoring equipment for border posts and customs. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), however, said he plans to offer an amendment to increase funding for biological weapons nonproliferation by $100 million. If approved, this would bring overall spending to $244 million in the next fiscal year.
Nonetheless, in a Jan. 25 interview with Inside the Pentagon, Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said broader increases for CTR funding were unlikely. Spratt said that although he wanted to see increased funding for securing fissile material and a more “rigid” scheme of accounting for sites in Russia and the United States, “I don’t think the budget will come to us…with enough money in [in it] to do these extra things.” He said he would work to find an offset for increased funding of nuclear nonproliferation activities but would not take it out of funding for the war in Iraq or other essential activities.
Indeed, money proposed for the Nuclear Weapons Storage Security program was down to $23 million for fiscal year 2008, a decrease of $64 million from current spending. This reflects the completion of a number of significant upgrades to Russian facilities and a shift to maintenance.
No funds were requested for the chemical weapons destruction program in fiscal year 2008. Although work on the weapons destruction facility at Shchuch’ye in Russia is still unfinished, the program is scheduled to end this year. Independent experts estimate the facility needs at least another $200 million to be completed.
The Nuclear Weapons Transportation Security program, on the other hand, is slated to receive $38 million for fiscal year 2008, a $5 million increase over the current spending. This will help to transport 48 trainloads of nuclear warheads to more secure facilities for storage and dismantlement.
The administration also requested a $2 million increase in funding for the Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination program. The $78 million in funds requested for fiscal year 2008 would be used to carry out such tasks as eliminating 65 ICBMs, defueling and storing another 20 ICBMs, and decommissioning or eliminating 44 ICBM silos.
The request for the WMD Proliferation Prevention Initiative to create better monitoring facilities on the borders of former non-Russian Soviet states was slightly higher than the previous year, at $38 million.
Department of Energy
The administration’s fiscal year 2008 budget request for a number of Department of Energy nonproliferation programs would also be below current spending. The International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation (INMP&C) program was cut by $41 million to $372 million.
The INMP&C program works to secure the former Soviet nuclear complex, both personnel and material. Part of its funding is dedicated to goals agreed to in a 2005 joint statement between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava. The Energy Department has explained that the decreases reflect completion of many of the upgrades.
The Energy Department cut $40 million out of the Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) and 12th Main Directorate program, citing contractor and technical access problems as well as poor weather conditions. The program seeks to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons usable materials at SRF and 12th Main Directorate sites in Russia. The Bush administration also indicated that it projects further large cuts in funding to programs in “closed” Russian cities once dedicated to designing and testing nuclear weapons. In 2005 at Bratislava, however, the United States promised to continue to support such programs.
The Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production program also will receive less funding this year as its projects in Russia continue to wind down. Some $182 million is requested for fiscal year 2008, down $25 million from current spending. The projects were created to replace Russian plutonium reactors with generators powered by fossil fuels at Severnsk and Zhelenznogorsk. They are on schedule to be completed by fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2011, respectively.
Funding for the Russian Fissile Materials Disposition program will be cut to zero for fiscal year 2008. This comes after a dispute over Moscow’s refusal to pay for a mixed-oxide fuel-fabrication facility. This refusal angered Congress and halted the program, which converts weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. The greater Fissile Materials Disposition program, which focuses on cutting stockpiles in the United States through similar techniques, was slightly increased to $609 million after the Senate concluded it was still worthwhile.
By contrast, funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) continues to increase, up $13 million to $119 million. The program works to reduce and protect nuclear and radiological material internationally.
Department of State
The administration requested $464 million for the Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, De-mining and Related Programs line item in the Department of State’s budget. Funding for all of the subprograms within this section devoted to nonproliferation were down, something that was noted by Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Lugar in a Feb. 8 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Export Controls and Border Related Security was set at $41 million, the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund at $30 million, and the Global Threat Reduction Program, formerly the Nonproliferation of WMD Expertise Program, is presently allocated $53.5 million.
Obama in particular took issue with the cuts, saying that these are “modest, but cuts nevertheless.” He added, “Now, I recognize that budgets are about priorities, but given how important, potentially, interdiction and some of these other programs are, you know, I’d like to see us at least stay constant…not go backwards.”
In response, Rice, while noting that these programs may be in less demand than in past, said, “I don’t think that we want to be complacent, and obviously we’ll keep examining it.” The administration, however, requested a $36 million increase for small arms and light weapons destruction activities globally. This proposed boost would raise future spending to $44.7 million.