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DoD Continues Efforts To Reduce WMD Proliferation Threat

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2004 – The Defense Department continues to work with Russia, former Soviet states, and other countries to prevent the proliferation of deadly weapons of mass destruction and to keep them out of terrorists' hands, a senior DoD official told a Senate Armed Services Committee panel last week.

"Keeping Russia's bio-weapons technology, pathogen collections and expertise out of terrorist hands strengthens U.S. national security," Lisa Bronson, deputy undersecretary of defense for technology security policy and counter proliferation, noted in March 10 testimony before the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Congress passed the Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991, which in 1993 was renamed the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

According to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Web site, the CTR program is "designed to help the countries of the former Soviet Union destroy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and associated infrastructure, and establish verifiable safeguards against the proliferation of those weapons." The DTRA was established in 1998 and integrates management and implementation of the CTR program.

DoD's WMD Proliferation Prevention Initiative, Bronson explained to the Senate panel, "is designed to address the vulnerability" of the former Soviet Union's porous borders to WMD-smuggling activities. The Bush administration's fiscal 2005 budget request for CTR is $409.2 million.

The initiative, Bronson pointed out, also "intends to build capabilities" of former Soviet satellites Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine "to stem the potential proliferation of WMD."

Bronson reported "much progress has been made," noting DoD signed agreements with Uzbekistan in October and with Azerbaijan in January.

And, "Ukraine has notified us that it is ready to sign," Bronson continued, adding, "We are in final negotiations with Kazakhstan."

Nations signing the WMD Proliferation Prevention Initiative, Bronson noted, will receive "equipment, training and other support to help develop self- sustaining capabilities to prevent the trafficking of WMD materials across recipients' borders."

Bronson noted that 51 out of 62 congressionally funded CTR projects within the former Soviet Union have been completed since the program began.

"This reflects the large amount of former Soviet nuclear weapons inventory and infrastructure that CTR helped eliminate or secure," Bronson said. Results include destruction of chemical weapons and the bolstering of security at nuclear storage sites, she said.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, "DoD has refined the CTR program to ensure that it effectively addresses new threats associated with the global war on terrorism," Bronson declared, while continuing the program's "longstanding goals and project activities."

Bronson discussed an envisioned maritime interdiction program for the Caspian Sea area that will provide radar equipment and small vessels to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan "to build their capabilities to police their own borders against illicit WMD trafficking."

That program eventually will be turned over to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan "to execute as their contribution to the global war on terrorism and WMD," she pointed out.

President Bush on Feb. 11 "called for the expansion of the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction of which CTR is an important part to address WMD proliferation threats worldwide," Bronson noted to the subcommittee. The president, she added, "specifically mentioned retraining WMD scientists and technicians in countries like Iraq and Libya, and the need to secure and eliminate WMD and radiological materials worldwide."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters in Finland during a June 2001 trip to Europe to meet with NATO ministers that proliferation is a serious problem.

"The genie is out of the bottle in terms of some very bad stuff both chemical and biological, particularly biological, but also nuclear," Rumsfeld said then of the WMD proliferation issue. Terrorists who obtain WMDs, the secretary said, "have power, and they can alter (countries') behavior. Anyone who pretends that's not the case doesn't 'get it,' because it's a fact."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

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