Obama Officials: U.S. Not Backing Away from Nuclear Security

Global Security Newswire Staff
March 10, 2014, 7:12 a.m.

Seni­or Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials are in­sist­ing the gov­ern­ment is not re­treat­ing from its fo­cus on nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity des­pite pro­posed fund­ing cuts.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fisc­al 2015 budget pro­pos­al, an­nounced last week, would elim­in­ate in ex­cess of $220 mil­lion in fund­ing for nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ef­forts, USA Today re­por­ted on Sat­urday.

One of the largest re­ques­ted cuts in nuc­le­ar non­pro­lif­er­a­tion spend­ing would come from the In­ter­na­tion­al Ma­ter­i­al Pro­tec­tion and Co­oper­a­tion ini­ti­at­ive. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is seek­ing just $305.5 mil­lion for the pro­gram, com­pared to the $419.5 mil­lion ap­pro­pri­ated for the cur­rent fisc­al cycle. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is also re­quest­ing $108 mil­lion less than cur­rent ap­pro­pri­ated levels for the Glob­al Threat Re­duc­tion Ini­ti­at­ive.

En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz said the de­cline in re­ques­ted non­pro­lif­er­a­tion fund­ing is due to an ad­min­is­tra­tion de­term­in­a­tion to moth­ball a con­tro­ver­sial ef­fort to con­struct a mixed-ox­ide fuel fab­ric­a­tion fa­cil­ity that would con­vert ex­cess plutoni­um in­to nuc­le­ar-re­act­or fuel.

The de­cision to shelve the MOX fa­cil­ity in South Car­o­lina ex­plains 54 per­cent of the re­duc­tion in sought-after non­pro­lif­er­a­tion funds.

Eliza­beth Sher­wood-Ran­dall, the White House’s point per­son on weapons of mass de­struc­tion, in a re­cent talk at Har­vard Uni­versity’s Belfer Cen­ter, re­jec­ted any sug­ges­tion that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is less fo­cused on glob­al nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity.

“I don’t think there is a prob­lem with com­pla­cency,” she said. “We are seized with this chal­lenge — with pre­vent­ing sens­it­ive ma­ter­i­als from fall­ing in­to the hands of ter­ror­ists or oth­ers who could use it to do us harm.”

Still, some arms con­trol ad­voc­ates ques­tion the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity.

“What I take away from this budget is that there was a lack of lead­er­ship in try­ing to main­tain the pri­or­it­iz­a­tion of the fund­ing of this is­sue,” said Part­ner­ship for Glob­al Se­cur­ity Pres­id­ent Ken­neth Luongo. “The sig­nal is we are in re­treat on this is­sue, and I think that is a huge mis­take.”

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