Thursday, August 2, 2007

Options, Part I: The Orthodox Views

There is no silver bullet to solve the problem of non-state biological and chemical weapons proliferation out of Russia. Many of the existing programs could be significantly increased in size or given a new focus; various elements of policy can be mixed and matched to try to create a multi-facet solution.

One obvious option is to try to improve the oversight and efficiency of CTR. The existing programs we have need to be held accountable so that they actually produce their maximum possible results. Those overseeing efforts to find alternative employment for Russian weapons scientists need to see that the funds allocated for this purpose are not lost in the bureaucratic process. Furthermore, programs such as the Department of Energy’s Initiative for Proliferation Prevention need to be re-worked or copied elsewhere so that they include chemical and biological knowledge as well.
In its 1995 report, the General Accounting Office found that most CTR defense conversion efforts were ‘converting dormant facilities that once produced items related to weapons of mass destruction,’ rather than eliminating current production capacity. (See CRS)
A further problem that needs correcting is that CTR personnel cannot even report on their own activities with accuracy: the 2007 CTR report to Congress specified in one place that the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility would begin operations in December 2008, while elsewhere in the same report it was stated that operations would begin in July. Such basic bureaucratic failures could be addressed in order to make CTR more effective.

However, a stepped-up version of CTR cannot fully address the problem. The GAO, commenting upon CTR’s biological efforts, said that
Key risks [involved with CTR] include sustaining Russia’s existing biological weapons infrastructure, maintaining or advancing Russian scientists’ skills to develop offensive biological weapons, and the potential misuse of US assistance to fund offensive research.
Because of the dual-use nature of chemical and biological technologies, these outcomes are not simply a result of poor management – although that may exacerbate the failure – but are an inherent problem with any CTR-type program. As the same report goes on to explain,
None of these [safeguards the US relies upon] would prevent Russian project participants or institutes from potentially using their skills or research outputs to later work on offensive weapons activities at any of the Russian military institutes that remain closed to the United States.
For this reason, many are calling for the abolition or serious curtailment of CTR, arguing that it is both a fundamental failure and a waste of money.

These two options encompass almost the entire debate surrounding the prevention of biological and chemical weapons proliferation in Russia. The one school of thought, while perhaps recognizing the shortcomings of CTR, points to the size of the threat and insists something must be done, concluding that CTR is better than nothing, while the other school of though, pointing to the high costs and frequent failures of CTR, insists it should be scrapped. Neither school is considering other options and neither side is thinking long-term.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

“CTR Program assistance totals $5,498.4 million in obligation authority through FY 2006. In FY 2005, $519.6 million was obligated. The CTR Program’s budget request for FY 2007 is $372.1 million, and the estimated total amount that will be required to achieve the objectives of the CTR Program through FY 2011 is $7,348.8 million,” known in common American parlance as $7.35 BILLION. (CTR Report, 5)