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Obama Administration Cuts Vital Programs Combating Nuclear Terrorism
FY 13 Budget Threatens to Weaken Global Nuclear Security
The Obama administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request takes a major step backwards in the fight to prevent nuclear terrorism by slashing key nuclear security budgets in all the major agencies involved in the effort, the Fissile Materials Working Group, a nonpartisan group of nuclear security experts said today. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) took the biggest cut at $293 million, while the State Department received an overall 7% reduction and a key Department of Defense effort a $21 million reduction. These cuts are being proposed on the eve of the March Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, where over 50 world leaders will come together to consider how to better secure all vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent nuclear terrorism.
The NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program (INMPC), the Pentagon’s Global Nuclear Security program, and the State Department’s Global Threat Reduction and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism programs all work together to protect vulnerable nuclear bomb-making and radiological materials around the world and deter efforts to smuggle these materials in dangerous regions. These materials are critical ingredients necessary to fashion crude nuclear weapons or a dirty bomb. Intelligence indicates terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, have been actively seeking these materials.
Ken Luongo, Co-Chair of the Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG) and President of the Partnership for Global Security, said the administration’s budget is “an assault on common sense and a threat to American and international security.”
In January 2010, both the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism and a former high-ranking CIA official warned that al-Qaeda is actively seeking nuclear materials to use against the United States. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission responsible for investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11th warned that, “The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world’s most dangerous terrorists acquire the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
The $32 million cut from GTRI is to a program that would remove nuclear and radiological materials from vulnerable civilian sites worldwide. The drastic $259 million in cuts to the INMPC program, a 45% cut below FY 2012, comes primarily to programs to detect the smuggling of nuclear and radiological materials around the globe.
Just weeks ago, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified that nuclear proliferation is one of the “top concerns” to American security and warned that “WMD-related materials may become vulnerable to nonstate actors, if the security that protects them erodes.”
“The nuclear terrorism threat is still out there. Congress and the administration need to provide enough money so that critical efforts to reduce the risk are not slowed by a lack of funds,” said Matthew Bunn, FMWG Steering Committee Member and Co-Principal Investigator with the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University. “Rather than cutting back, we need to expand our efforts to secure and consolidate nuclear stockpiles around the world and not let our imagination be constrained by our budget.”
In response to President Obama's budget request, Dr. Catherine Thomasson, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, indicated that, "it makes no sense to reduce the much needed funding for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. These vital programs safeguard the health and security of all Americans and must be protected.”
The FMWG is a coalition of more than 60 leading experts and non-governmental organizations in nuclear security. It was formed to support and help implement the goal of promptly securing all vulnerable fissile materials.