oversight

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Observations on U.S. Threat Reduction and Nonproliferation Programs in Russia

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-03-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                             United States General Accounting Office

GAO                          Testimony
                             Before the Committee on Armed Services,
                             U.S. House of Representatives


For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2:00 p.m., EST
Wednesay, March 5, 2003      WEAPONS OF MASS
                             DESTRUCTION
                             Observations on U.S. Threat
                             Reduction and
                             Nonproliferation Programs
                             in Russia
                             Statement of Joseph A. Christoff, Director,
                             International Affairs and Trade




GAO-03-526T
          Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

          I am pleased to be here today to discuss efforts by the Departments of
          Defense, Energy, and State to help Russia secure, destroy, and dismantle
          weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and prevent their proliferation.

          After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia inherited the world’s
          largest arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The Soviets’
          extensive military resources and autocratic rule allowed it to maintain and
          secure this vast arsenal. As Russia adopted economic reforms and moved
          toward an open society, its economy and central controls deteriorated,
          making it difficult to maintain security at these weapons sites. Recognizing
          these difficulties, the Congress authorized funds for programs to help
          destroy Russian weapons and improve WMD security. The events of
          September 11th have increased U.S. concerns that terrorists might obtain
          nuclear materials or weapons at poorly secured sites.

          GAO has reviewed U.S. threat reduction and nonproliferation efforts in
          Russia since 1993. Today, I will present our overall observations on the
          progress and key challenges of these programs based on published GAO
          reports since 1993.1


          Over the past decade, the United States has responded to increased
Summary   proliferation risks in Russia by providing $6.4 billion for Departments of
          Defense, Energy, and State programs in the former Soviet Union. The
          United States has made important progress in three areas. First, the
          Department of Defense helped destroy 463 Russian nuclear submarines,
          long-range bombers, and strategic missiles to support Russia’s efforts to
          meet treaty requirements. Second, the Department of Energy installed
          security systems that helped protect 32 percent of Russia’s weapons-
          usable nuclear material. Third, the United States supplemented the income
          of thousands of Russian weapons scientists so they would be less inclined
          to sell their skills to countries of concern.

          However, U.S. threat reduction and nonproliferation programs have
          consistently faced two critical challenges: (1) the Russian government has
          not always paid its agreed-upon share of program costs and (2) Russian



          1
           Appendix I contains a list of reports GAO has published since 1993 on U.S. threat
          reduction and nonproliferation efforts in the former Soviet Union.



          Page 1                                         GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
                 ministries have often denied U.S. officials access to key nuclear and
                 biological sites. Regarding program costs, Russia did not pay, for example,
                 its previously agreed-upon share of $275 million to design and build a
                 nuclear storage site at Mayak. As of January 2003, the United States plans
                 to spend $385 million for a scaled-down version of this site. Russia has
                 also failed to pay operation and maintenance costs for security equipment
                 the United States installed at sites with weapons-usable nuclear material.
                 As a result, DOE plans to spend an additional $171 million to ensure that
                 this equipment is properly maintained. Regarding access, Russia will not
                 allow DOD and DOE the level of access they require to design security
                 improvements, verify their installation, and ensure their proper operation.
                 As a result, the agencies have been unable to help protect substantial
                 portions of Russia’s nuclear warheads and weapons-usable nuclear
                 material. In addition, many Russian biological sites that store dangerous
                 biological pathogens remain off-limits to the United States. Russia justifies
                 these access restrictions on the grounds that it is protecting its national
                 security interests.


                 Russia inherited the world’s largest arsenal of weapons of mass
Background       destruction after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This arsenal includes
                 approximately:

             •   30,000 nuclear weapons,
             •   600 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials,
             •   40,000 metric tons of declared chemical weapons,
             •   2,100 systems (missiles and bombers) for delivering weapons of mass
                 destruction, and
             •   About 40 research institutes devoted to the development and production
                 of biological weapons.

                 In addition, the Soviet collapse also left 30,000 to 75,000 senior nuclear,
                 chemical, and biological weapons scientists and thousands of less
                 experienced junior scientists without full-time employment.

                 To date, Congress has authorized more than $6.4 billion for several
                 programs to help Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union
                 reduce the proliferation threats posed by their weapons of mass
                 destruction.

                 In 1992, Congress authorized DOD to establish the Cooperative Threat
                 Reduction Program. The program remains the largest and most diverse
                 U.S. program addressing former Soviet weapons of mass destruction


                 Page 2                                  GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
                     threats. Most Cooperative Threat Reduction projects (1) destroy vehicles
                     and launchers that deliver nuclear weapons and their related facilities and
                     (2) secure Russia’s nuclear weapons and materials to prevent their
                     proliferation.

                     The Department of State helped establish and, with DOD, funded the
                     International Science and Technology Center in Moscow to help fund
                     peaceful research carried out by underpaid weapons scientists in 1994.
                     The Center supplements the income of scientists, purchases equipment for
                     scientific research, and supports programs to help scientists identify and
                     develop commercially viable research projects. The Center’s sponsors
                     include the United States, the European Union, and Japan.

                     In 1995, DOE launched the Material Protection, Control, and Accounting
                     Program to help secure former Soviet weapons-usable nuclear materials. It
                     later created the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program and the
                     Nuclear Cities Initiative to engage unemployed weapons scientists in
                     various peaceful commercial projects. The Department also has two other
                     initiatives to reduce former Soviet stockpiles of weapons useable material.
                     These programs are designed to convert highly enriched uranium and
                     weapons-usable plutonium to fuels that can be used in civilian nuclear
                     power plants.

                     In 1998, DOD initiated efforts to help secure Russian sites with dangerous
                     biological pathogens in response to intensified efforts by Iran and other
                     countries of proliferation concern to acquire biological weapons expertise
                     and materials.2 In 1999, Congress approved funds to begin enhancing
                     security at Russia’s chemical weapons storage sites.


                     The United States has made progress in helping reduce threats from the
U.S. Programs Have   weapons, materials, and personnel working in weapons development.
Made Progress in     First, the most important progress the United States has made to date has
                     been in support of Russia’s efforts to eliminate strategic nuclear delivery
Three Areas          systems as required by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
                     START I required Russia to reduce the number of delivery vehicles from
                     2100 to 1600.3 Further cuts are required under START II. Through the


                     2
                     Biological Weapons: Effort to Reduce Former Soviet Threat Offers Benefits, Poses New
                     Risks (GAO/NSIAD-00-138, Apr. 28, 2000).
                     3
                      Under the terms of START I, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine were required to eliminate
                     their entire stockpile of about 400 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.


                     Page 3                                       GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
Cooperative Threat Reduction program, the Department of Defense has
helped de-fuel, transport, and destroy excess missiles and bombers, and
destroy excess launchers.4 According to the Defense Threat Reduction
Agency, 24 nuclear ballistic missile submarines, 44 long-range heavy
bombers, and 395 intercontinental missiles that previously contained
nuclear warheads have been destroyed as of 2002. These efforts have been
successful because the United States and Russia had mutually agreed-
upon goals rooted in START and the Russians provided relatively open
access.5

The Department of Energy has made progress in securing Russia’s
plutonium and highly enriched uranium. As we reported in February 2001,6
DOE had installed systems that helped improve security over 32 percent of
Russia’s weapons-usable nuclear material. Much of DOE’s progress was at
Russian civilian and navel fuel storage sites. At those sites, DOE
completed the installation of security systems at nearly 60 percent (73 of
125) of the buildings and had work under way at 26 percent (33 of 125) of
the remaining buildings.7 In addition, within 2 years of beginning a
program to help the Russian Navy secure its nuclear warheads, DOE had
begun installing security systems at 41 of 42 sites. The installation of
security equipment such as fences, sensors, video cameras, and access
control systems at these sites has reduced the risk of theft of nuclear
material and nuclear warheads.

The United States also seeks to reduce proliferation risks associated with
under-employed, highly trained scientists who could be tempted to sell
their expertise to terrorists or countries of concern. As we reported in May




4
 Weapons of Mass Destruction: Status of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program
(GAO/NSIAD-96-222, Sep. 27, 1996).
5
Weapons of Mass Destruction: U.S. Efforts to Reduce Threats from the Former Soviet
Union. GAO/T-NSIAD/RCED-00-119, Mar. 6, 2000.
6
Nuclear Nonproliferation: Security of Russia’s Nuclear Material Improving; Further
Enhancements Needed (GAO-01-312, Feb. 28, 2001).
7
 Russia stores weapons-usable nuclear material at three types of sites. Civilian sites
produce nuclear fuels and materials for civilian application; naval fuel sites store stockpiles
of highly enriched uranium used in submarines and icebreakers; and the nuclear weapons
complex fabricates, refurbishes, and dismantles nuclear weapons and components.



Page 4                                          GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
                        2001,8 the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State have supplemented
                        the incomes of thousands of former Soviet weapons scientists. For
                        example, in 2000, about 6,800 senior weapons scientists were engaged in
                        research projects such as developing vaccines and devising techniques to
                        enhance environmental cleanup. However, the U.S.-sponsored research
                        generally provides only part-time employment for Russian scientists.
                        Consequently, the departments know little about the scientists’ activities
                        outside these programs.


                        Since 1991, U.S. threat reduction programs in Russia have faced two key
U.S. Threat Reduction   challenges. First, Russia has not always adhered to agreements to pay its
Programs in Russia      share of program costs, and second, Russia has not always provided the
                        access DOD and DOE require to design security improvements, verify their
Face Key Challenges     installation, and ensure their proper operation.


Russia Has Not Always   Three programs illustrate the difficulty of relying on Russia to provide
Provided Its Share of   agreed-upon funds for threat reduction programs. In 1992, Russia
Funding for Programs    requested assistance from the United States to build a site to store nuclear
                        material from dismantled warheads. DOD agreed to help Russia build a
                        Pentagon-sized facility at Mayak to store the plutonium and limited its
                        contribution to no more than one half ($275 million) of the total estimated
                        cost. However, as we reported in 1999,9 Russia did not fund its $275 million
                        share of the project. As a result, the United States, as of January 2003,
                        plans to spend $385 million to design and build a scaled-back version of
                        the facility. In addition, as we testified in March 2000,10 the United States
                        does not know if Russia will be able to pay the annual operating costs of
                        more than $10 million after the facility is completed in 2004.

                        Since 1994, DOD has been negotiating with Russia to design and build a
                        destruction facility for chemical weapons. Under the terms of the



                        8
                         Weapons of Mass Destruction: State Department Oversight of Science Centers Program
                        (GAO-01-582, May 10, 2001) and Nuclear Nonproliferation: DOE’s Efforts to Assist
                        Weapons Scientists in Russia’s Nuclear Cities Face Challenges (GAO-01-429, May 3,
                        2001).
                        9
                        Weapons of Mass Destruction: Effort to Reduce Russian Arsenals May Cost More,
                        Achieve Less Than Planned (GAO/NSIAD-99-76, Apr. 1999).
                        10
                         Weapons of Mass Destruction: U.S. Efforts to Reduce Threats from the Former Soviet
                        Union (GAO/T-NSIAD/RCED-00-119, Mar. 6, 2000).



                        Page 5                                      GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
                          Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia is required to destroy its entire
                          chemical weapons stockpile by 2012. Russia estimates that it will cost $3.5
                          to $5 billion for multiple facilities to destroy this stockpile. In November
                          2001, we testified that DOD estimated that it will cost the United States
                          $890 million to design and build a single facility.11 However, the successful
                          completion of the project was based on the assumption that Russia will
                          pay an additional $750 million in operational costs and related
                          infrastructure such as gas and water lines, storm sewers, and a rail line to
                          link the destruction facility with a nearby chemical weapons storage site.
                          However, through 2001, Russia had only provided $25 million toward this
                          effort.

                          Russia also apparently faces significant limitations on its ability to pay for
                          the operation and maintenance of U.S.-provided security equipment such
                          as cameras, electronic locks, and motion detectors. As we reported in
                          February 2001,12 when DOE began to help secure Russia’s weapons-usable
                          nuclear material in 1995, the agency assumed that Russia would be able to
                          pay for the long-term operation and maintenance of the security systems
                          DOE planned to install. However, DOE soon learned that Russian officials
                          said they lacked the resources to pay for these costs. As a result, as of
                          February 2001, DOE planned to spend $171 million to cover the cost of
                          equipment warranties, operating procedure development, and training.
                          Without U.S. funding, the operation and maintenance of security systems
                          at these sites would be reduced, leaving nuclear materials more vulnerable
                          to theft.


Russia Has Denied DOD     Russia has not provided DOD and DOE the access to sites that they
and DOE Access to         require to design security improvements, verify their installation, and
Significant Nuclear and   ensure their proper operation. Russia justifies these access restrictions on
                          the grounds that it is protecting its national security interests. As a result,
Biological Sites          DOD and DOE have been unable to help protect substantial portions of
                          Russia’s nuclear warhead stockpile and weapons-usable nuclear material.
                          In addition, several Russian biological sites of potential proliferation
                          concern have been off-limits to the United States. The following three
                          examples illustrate the lack of access the agencies have encountered.



                          11
                           Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing U.S. Policy Tools for Combating Proliferation
                          (GAO-02-226T, Nov. 7, 2001).
                          12
                           GAO-01-312.



                          Page 6                                      GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
The United States has long-standing concerns about the security
conditions at Russia’s nuclear warhead sites. In 1997, DOD began efforts
to help secure these sites. As we reported in June 2001,13 the Russian
Ministry of Defense does not provide U.S. personnel with access to
nuclear weapons storage sites. This has blocked DOD from installing
security improvements such as fences, sensors, and access control
systems to prevent outsiders from breaking in and employees from
stealing on the inside.

As we reported in February 2001,14 DOE’s lack of access to buildings in
Russia’s nuclear weapons complex is a significant challenge to improving
security over weapons-usable nuclear material in Russia. DOE requires
access to these buildings to design security systems and confirm their
installation. The Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy had denied DOE
access to 73 percent of the buildings with weapons-usable material in the
nuclear weapons complex. As a result, DOE was unable to improve
security over hundreds of metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear material.

The Russian government has refused to grant the United States access to
biological facilities managed by the Ministry of Defense. As we reported in
April 2000,15 the United States is concerned that offensive research may
continue to take place at these facilities. It is believed that these sites
maintain a national collection of dangerous pathogens, including Ebola
and Marburg viruses. U.S. officials stated that they are concerned that
dangerous pathogen stocks could be stolen and used for illicit purposes.

The Departments of Defense and Energy have worked with the Russian
government over the years to gain access to these sites but with limited
success. As a result, the United States employs alternatives to onsite
access through the use of photographs and videotapes before and after the
installation of security systems, visual inspections by a single member of a
U.S. project team, and written certification by Russian site directors.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, this concludes my prepared
statement. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.



13
 Cooperative Threat Reduction: DOD Has Adequate Oversight of Assistance, but
Procedural Limitations Remain (GAO-01-694, Jun. 19, 2001).
14
 GAO-01-312.
15
 GAO/NSIAD-00-138.



Page 7                                     GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
                  For future contacts regarding this testimony, please call Joseph Christoff
Contacts and      at (202) 512-8979. Gene Aloise, R. Stockton Butler, Joseph Cook, Lynn
Acknowledgments   Cothern, Muriel Forster, Beth Hoffman Leon, Hynek Kalkus, David
                  Maurer, Maria Oliver, Jeffrey Phillips, Daniele Schiffman, F. James Shafer,
                  and Pierre Toureille made key contributions to the reports on which this
                  testimony is based.




                  Page 8                                GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
GAO Related Products


             Cooperative Threat Reduction Program Annual Report. GAO-03-341R.
             Washington, D.C.: December 2, 2002.

             Arms Control: Efforts to Strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.
             GAO-02-1038NI. Washington, D.C.: September 30, 2002.

             Nuclear Nonproliferation: U.S. Efforts to Help Other Countries Combat
             Nuclear Smuggling Need Strengthened Coordination and Planning.
             GAO-02-426. Washington, D.C.: May 16, 2002.

             Cooperative Threat Reduction: DOD Has Adequate Oversight of
             Assistance, but Procedural Limitations Remain. GAO-01-694.
             Washington, D.C.: June 19, 2001.

             Weapons of Mass Destruction: State Department Oversight of Science
             Centers Program. GAO-01-582. Washington, D.C.: May 10, 2001.

             Nuclear Nonproliferation: DOE’s Efforts to Assist Weapons Scientists in
             Russia’s Nuclear Cities Face Challenges. GAO-01-429. Washington, D.C.:
             May 3, 2001.

             Nuclear Nonproliferation: Security of Russia’s Nuclear Material
             Improving; Further Enhancements Needed. GAO-01-312. Washington,
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             Nuclear Nonproliferation: Implications of the U.S. Purchase of Russian
             Highly Enriched Uranium. GAO-01-148. Washington, D.C.: December 15,
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             Biological Weapons: Effort to Reduce Former Soviet Threat Offers
             Benefits, Poses New Risks. NSIAD-00-138. Washington, D.C.: April 28,
             2000.

             Weapons of Mass Destruction: Some U.S. Assistance to Redirect Russian
             Scientists Taxed by Russia. NSIAD-00-154R. Washington, D.C.: April 28,
             2000.

             Cooperative Threat Reduction: DOD’s 1997-98 Reports on Accounting for
             Assistance Were Late and Incomplete. NSIAD-00-40. Washington, D.C.:
             March 15, 2000.




             Page 9                               GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
Nuclear Nonproliferation: Limited Progress in Improving Nuclear
Material Security in Russia and the Newly Independent States.
RCED/NSIAD-00-82. Washington, D.C.: March 6, 2000.

Nuclear Nonproliferation: Status of Transparency Measures for U.S.
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Washington, D.C.: September 22, 1999.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Effort to Reduce Russian Arsenals May
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Nuclear Nonproliferation: Concerns With DOE’s Efforts to Reduce the
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Nuclear Nonproliferation and Safety: Uncertainties About the
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Weapons of Mass Destruction: Review of DOD’s June 1997 Report on
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Cooperative Threat Reduction: Status of Defense Conversion Efforts in
the Former Soviet Union. NSIAD-97-101. Washington, D.C.: April 11, 1997.

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Nuclear Safety: Status of U.S. Assistance to Improve the Safety of Soviet-
Designed Reactors. RCED-97-5. Washington, D.C.: October 29, 1996.

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Status of the Cooperative Threat
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Materials Controls in Newly Independent States. NSIAD/RCED-96-89.
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Nuclear Safety: Concerns With Nuclear Facilities and Other Sources of
Radiation in the Former Soviet Union. RCED-96-4. Washington, D.C.:
November 7, 1995.

Page 10                               GAO-03-526T Weapons of Mass Destruction
           Weapons of Mass Destruction: DOD Reporting on Cooperative Threat
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           Weapons of Mass Destruction: Reducing the Threat From the Former
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           Nuclear Safety: International Assistance Efforts to Make Soviet-Designed
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           Soviet Nuclear Weapons: Priorities and Costs Associated with U.S.
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           1993.




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