Monday, June 4, 2007

U.S. Under Funds, Undercuts Nuclear Test Detection System

It was reported recently that the international organization that helped confirm North Korea’s nuclear test last October might not be able to complete its global network of monitoring stations unless the U.S. pays tens of millions of dollars in arrears.

Threatening to stifle global efforts to detect and deter nuclear testing worldwide, the United States now owes $38.3 million to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). For dramatic effect, that total is the equivalent of what the U.S. spends (at a rate of $250,000 per minute) on the Iraq war in just over two and a half hours.

Tasked with administering the treaty that bans all nuclear explosions but has yet to enter force, the CTBTO has completed an International Data Center and 240 global monitoring stations designed to provide real-time data on nuclear tests worldwide, but 80 more stations still need to be built, including one that borders Iran and could potentially provide invaluable information on any testing done there.

In order for the CTBT to enter into force, it must ratified by the 44 countries identified in Annex 2 of the treaty. While 41 of these countries have signed the treaty, only 34 have ratified it, leaving the U.S. as only one of ten countries to stand in the way of its full implementation. The other countries are China, Columbia, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan. Oh the company we keep!

Since entering office in 2002, the Bush administration has unilaterally decided to withhold the U.S portion of approximately $800,000 per year designated for the On-Site Inspection (OSI) verification component. For both fiscal years 2006 and 2007, the administration and Congress allocated only $14.4 million for the CTBTO, approximately $7 million short of the assessed contributions for the United States for each of those years.

But the most inexplicable move came when the Bush administration never actually dispersed last year’s already allocated funds for the CTBTO, resulting in the U.S. losing its voting rights in the Preparatory Commission, the decision-making body of the Organization. Yet because the U.S. signed the treaty back in 1996, it will continue to receive data from the monitoring stations, creating a dangerous precedent that other countries might follow.

The Bush administration is now asking for $18 million in its budget request for fiscal year 2008 even though the CTBTO assessed U.S. dues at $23.4 million for the year.

Must be fuzzy math.

The House State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to mark-up or write its version of the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which includes funding for the CTBTO on June 5. The bill is expected to be considered by the full Appropriations Committee the same day and then by the full House on June 20.

Congress needs to not only approve the $18 million request, but also up the ante by adding an additional $10 million in order for the U.S. to regain its voting rights in the Preparatory Commission and to ensure that the CTBTO can complete the remaining 80 monitoring stations.

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