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Friday, August 2, 2013

The Evolution of Cooperative Threat Reduction: Issues for Congress

Mary Beth D. Nikitin 
Specialist in Nonproliferation 

Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

The United States uses a number of policy tools to address the threat of attack using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons. These include a set of financial and technical programs known, variously, as cooperative threat reduction (CTR) programs, nonproliferation assistance, or, global security engagement. Congress has supported these programs over the years, but has raised a number of questions about their implementation and their future direction.

Over the years, the CTR effort shifted from an emergency response to impending chaos in the Soviet Union to a broader program seeking to keep CBRN weapons away from rogue nations or terrorist groups. It has also grown from a DOD-centered effort to include projects funded by the Department of Defense (DOD), the State Department, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Together, these agencies are seeking nearly $1.65 billion for these programs in FY2014.

Although initially focused on the former Soviet Union, these programs now seek to engage partners around the world. The United States has used funding and expertise from these programs to help secure dangerous weapons and materials in nations that experience civil strife or regime collapse, such as in Libya, and to prevent their spread outside a conflict’s borders, such as with Syria’s neighboring countries. U.S. cooperation with Russia is narrowing, as the Memorandum of Understanding that governed the Defense Department’s CTR activities in Russia expired in mid- June 2013 and was replaced with a bilateral protocol under the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation Agreement (MNEPR). Many of the CTR projects in Russia will wind down, although the two countries will continue to cooperate on some areas of nuclear security.

In its oversight of these programs, Congress has addressed questions about the coordination of and priority given to these programs, about partner nations’ willingness to provide the United States with access to their weapons facilities, and about the metrics used to measure progress. Congress has also reviewed efforts to engage nations around the world in cooperative threat reduction and security engagement activities. Some Members have actively encouraged the Obama Administration to expand these programs to the Middle East and North Africa. This goal is evident in the Next Generation Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 2013 (S. 1021) and the Cooperative Threat Reduction Modernization Act (H.R. 2314). Similar provisions are part of both the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act of FY2014 (H.R. 1960, §1304; S. 1197, §1326).

This report summarizes cooperative activities conducted during the full 20 years of U.S. threat reduction and nonproliferation assistance. Many older programs have concluded their work, while more recent programs continue to expand their scope and their geographic reach.

Several DOD and DOE programs have helped Russia and the other former Soviet states eliminate nuclear weapons delivery systems and secure nuclear warheads in storage. DOE has also helped Russia strengthen security and materials accounting at facilities that store nuclear materials. These agencies are seeking to expand this effort to other nations by sharing “best practices” with partner countries through Centers of Excellence. DOE is also working, through the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), to secure, protect, and in some cases, remove vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials at civilian facilities worldwide.

Date of Report: July 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 53
Order Number: R43143
Price: $29.95

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