Issue Experts, Activists Decry U.S. ‘Major Retreat’ on Nuclear Security

U.S. President Obama arrives for an event in March 2013 at the White House announcing the nominations of key cabinet posts. A group of 100 experts and activists last week criticized the administration for cuts in the fiscal 2015 budget for nonproliferation programs. U.S. President Obama arrives for an event in March 2013 at the White House announcing the nominations of key cabinet posts. A group of 100 experts and activists last week criticized the administration for cuts in the fiscal 2015 budget for nonproliferation programs.
National Journal
Sebastian Sprenger
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Sebastian Sprenger
May 5, 2014, 5:18 a.m.

A group of 100 former of­fi­cials, peace ad­voc­ates and is­sue ex­perts cri­ti­cized the White House for plan­ning to cut nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity fund­ing next year.

In a let­ter to Pres­id­ent Obama, the mainly left-lean­ing crit­ics ar­gued that the fisc­al 2015 budget re­quest would sig­nal a “ma­jor re­treat” in ef­forts to se­cure nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­als world­wide.

Spe­cific­ally, the ex­perts lamen­ted a planned re­duc­tion to the Glob­al Threat Re­duc­tion Ini­ti­at­ive of 25 per­cent, and cuts to the In­ter­na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Ma­ter­i­als Pro­tec­tion Pro­gram total­ing 27 per­cent. Also af­fected: The Pentagon’s Co­oper­at­ive Threat Re­duc­tion budget, which is slated to be cut by 27 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the sign­ers.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has said pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ists from ac­quir­ing atom­ic ma­ter­i­al to build nuc­le­ar weapons, even in crude form, is a key thrust in the pres­id­ent’s na­tion­al se­cur­ity agenda. Of­fi­cials have pre­vi­ously de­fen­ded re­duc­tions to some non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pro­grams, ar­guing that ob­ject­ives could still be achieved un­der a re­duced fund­ing pro­file. They also have poin­ted to the fact that budgets are shrink­ing across all gov­ern­ment func­tions.

The ex­pert’s let­ter urges the ad­min­is­tra­tion to treat non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pro­grams as a “top pri­or­ity” ded­ic­ated to work “too im­port­ant to be a bill pay­er” for oth­er activ­it­ies.

“In your clos­ing re­marks … at the 2014 Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit in the Neth­er­lands, you rightly stated that des­pite the pro­gress made over the past four years, ‘it is im­port­ant for us not to re­lax, but rather ac­cel­er­ate our ef­forts … [and] sus­tain mo­mentum,” the ex­perts wrote. “The [fisc­al 2015] budget re­quest is out of sync with these ob­ject­ives.”

Among the let­ter’s sig­nat­or­ies are Ken­neth Brill, a former U.S. am­bas­sad­or to the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency; An­drew Sem­mel, a former top State De­part­ment non­pro­lif­er­a­tion of­fi­cial; and Byron Dor­gan, a former Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or from North Dakota. They were joined by dozens of seni­or ana­lysts from ma­jor think tanks and lead­ers of peace-ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tions.

In oth­er news, a group of cur­rent and former European politi­cians, gov­ern­ment min­is­ters, dip­lo­mats and mil­it­ary chiefs are call­ing on the world’s five re­cog­nized nuc­le­ar powers — China, France, Rus­sia, the United King­dom and the United States — to en­gage with oth­er na­tions on the hu­man­it­ari­an con­sequences of atom­ic weapons.

The European Lead­er­ship Net­work is­sued its group state­ment last Thursday, as world en­voys and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ad­voc­ates met in New York for a two-week Pre­par­at­ory Com­mit­tee ses­sion for next year’s Re­view Con­fer­ence on the Nuc­le­ar Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty.

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