Cooperative threat reduction programs should be revamped to address 21st century threats

The White House should lead the reformulation of U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs to focus on combating international terrorism and other current threats, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. The government’s first CTR programs were created in 1991 to eliminate the former Soviet Union’s nuclear, chemical, and other weapons and prevent their proliferation. Originally designed to deal with immediate post-Cold War challenges, the programs must be expanded to other regions and fundamentally redesigned as an active tool of foreign policy that can address contemporary threats from groups that are that are agile, networked, and adaptable.

“A bold vision is again required,” said Ronald F. Lehman, director of the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “The Department of Defense and the entire federal government should re-examine what CTR has already accomplished and refocus efforts to promote global security engagement in the 21st century.” The report calls this new approach CTR 2.0. “The programs need a broad upgrade to meet the magnitude of new security challenges, particularly at the nexus of WMD and terrorism,” said co-chair David R. Franz, vice president and chief biological scientist at the Midwest Research Institute in Frederick, Md.

Under the CTR 2.0 model recommended in the report, the White House should engage departments across the government — not only those traditionally associated with security such as Defense, State, and Energy, but also departments often considered outside the security realm. For example, the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency could participate in CTR projects and should be given the appropriate legislative authority to support their involvement. The U.S. also should engage the nongovernment sector — academia, industry, and other organizations — and seek international partnerships, including under the G8 Global Partnership Against Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.

The report recommends that Department of Defense CTR programs be an integral part of this new approach. DOD should continue traditional CTR programs — including completing current projects in Russia and the former Soviet Union — and also expand into new activities, partnerships, and countries. A geographic expansion of CTR would enhance U.S. national security and global stability, the report says. A key to the United States’ future security will be the ability to build a broader network of partners who are committed to enhancing global security; this network of partnerships can be a tripwire to warn the U.S. of potential dangers.

The report notes a wide array of possible opportunities to cooperate with other nations on threat reduction. For example, many countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia may be willing to partner on efforts to bolster emergency and disaster preparedness, strengthen port security, and combat smuggling. They may also be willing to partner in broadening efforts begun by DOD to improve disease surveillance and give early warning to the U.S. about potential biological attacks or disease outbreaks.

The U.S. government’s CTR programs have accomplished much, the report says. For less than a total of 7 billion dollars over 15 years, the programs have deactivated thousands of nuclear warheads, neutralized chemical weapons, safeguarded fissile materials, converted weapons facilities for peaceful use, and redirected the work of former weapons scientists and engineers, among other efforts. However, the report argues that current programs must be made more flexible and responsive, with a stronger focus on building partnerships with other nations and with international and nongovernmental organizations. The report also highlights the role of personal relationships and professional networks in building trust and transparency.

Greater flexibility and authority should be given to those who plan and implement CTR projects to improve the projects’ timeliness and effectiveness, the report says; contracting procedures also need to be streamlined. In the past, heavy bureaucratic requirements often slowed the implementation of projects, and partner countries have sometimes interpreted these delays as a U.S. reluctance to collaborate. And new ways to gauge the success of projects will be needed given the heightened focus on partnerships and relationship-building, which contribute directly to national security but which are more difficult to measure than the number of weapons destroyed.

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.