Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bush Administration Continues to Neglect Arms Control and Nonproliferation

On Sunday, the Boston Globe reported that the White House has no intention of filling the position of United States Coordinator for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism anytime soon.

Congress established the position within the Executive Office of the President by way of H.R. 1, also known as "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007." According to the law, which passed both the House and the Senate by wide margins and was signed into law by the President on August 3, 2007, the Coordinator would serve as the “principal adviser to the president on all matters relating to the prevention of weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism.”

The Bush administration argues that a nuclear terrorism “czar” “is unnecessary given extensive coordination and synchronization mechanisms that now exist within the executive branch.” Oh, if only that were the case. In reality, the executive branch is in dire need of a senior official with direct access to the President to formulate a comprehensive and well-coordinated U.S. strategy and policies for preventing WMD proliferation and terrorism and the authority to lead interagency coordination to implement such a strategy and policies.

Under the Bush administration’s watch, the ability of the U.S. national security bureaucracy to effectively address important arms control and nonproliferation issues has significantly deteriorated. Secretary Rice’s July 2005 reorganization plan, which eliminated the nonproliferation and arms control bureaus and combined them into a new Bureau for International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) has, among other things, weakened the State Department’s ability to achieve priority nonproliferation objectives, resulted in an exodus of key staff members that has left the new nonproliferation bureau starving for experience and expertise in arms control and nonproliferation policy and multilateral diplomacy, and made it more difficult for the next administration to pursue a renewed arms control agenda.

In a welcome and much-needed shift from the policies of the Bush administration, both presumptive nominees for President have stated that they intend to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and pursue further legally binding and verifiable reductions in the number of U.S. and Russia nuclear weapons. In order to achieve this much-needed progress on effective nuclear arms control and non-proliferation, the next President will need to construct a bureaucratic structure that enhances, rather than undermines, the capacity of the United States to pursue bold arms control and nonproliferation measures. Filling the position of United States Coordinator for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism would be a great place to start.

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