Weapons of Mass Destruction:

Nonproliferation Programs Need Better Integration

GAO-05-157: Published: Jan 28, 2005. Publicly Released: Jan 28, 2005.

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Since 1992, the Congress has provided more than $7 billion for threat reduction and nonproliferation programs in the former Soviet Union (FSU). These programs have played a key role in addressing the threats of weapons of mass destruction and are currently expanding beyond the FSU. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 mandated that GAO assess (1) Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Energy (DOE) strategies guiding their threat reduction and nonproliferation programs and (2) efforts to coordinate DOD, DOE, and Department of State threat reduction and nonproliferation programs that share similar missions.

GAO found that there is no overall strategy that integrates the threat reduction and nonproliferation programs of the DOD, DOE, and others. DOD and DOE have strategies governing their respective programs, which generally contain the elements of a strategy as established by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. These strategies include a mission statement and goals, identify external factors that could affect meeting these goals, establish metrics to evaluate the performance of the programs, provide cost estimates, and cover a period of at least 5 years. Given the involvement of multiple agencies, and the expansion of the threat reduction and nonproliferation programs beyond the FSU, integration of agencies' strategies is important. The agencies' implementation of very similar programs has not always been well coordinated. While the majority of programs in DOD and DOE are distinct, GAO found three program areas that perform similar functions in the FSU. GAO found that the coordination of programs enhancing security at Russian nuclear warhead sites improved after the National Security Council (NSC) staff issued guidance. Specifically, the guidance delineates agencies' roles, interactions, and ways to resolve disputes. The biological weapons scientist employment programs in DOD, DOE, and State are well coordinated and also have NSC staff guidance addressing roles, interactions, and disputes. By contrast, there is no governmentwide guidance delineating the roles and responsibilities of agencies managing border security programs. According to DOD and DOE officials managing these programs, agencies' roles are not well delineated and coordination could be improved.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should, in consultation with other agencies involved in threat reduction and nonproliferation programs, develop an integrated plan for all U.S. threat reduction and nonproliferation programs to ensure that the programs are effectively coordinated and address all threats. The results of this review should be reported to the Congress as part of the President's response to section 1339 of the Fiscal Year 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which requires the President to submit a report after each presidential inauguration on threat reduction and nonproliferation objectives and how executive branch efforts will be coordinated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD did not indicate whether it concurred with this recommendation. In April 2007, DOD officials told us they believe that the NSC is the proper government organization to act on this recommendation. In May 2008 officials reiterated that they had not seen a government wide strategy developed by the NSC, but that coordination of programs was on-going thru the NSC.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should, in consultation with other agencies involved in threat reduction and nonproliferation programs, develop an integrated plan for all U.S. threat reduction and nonproliferation programs to ensure that the programs are effectively coordinated and address all threats. The results of this review should be reported to the Congress as part of the President's response to section 1339 of the Fiscal Year 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which requires the President to submit a report after each presidential inauguration on threat reduction and nonproliferation objectives and how executive branch efforts will be coordinated.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE indicated that they believe that the necessary coordination occurs , appropriately, within the NSC. They stated that an interagency working group coordinates Executive Branch Agencies nonproliferation efforts and implements the policies associated with the threat reduction and nonproliferation programs. In follow up conversation in April 2007 and May 2008, agency officials indicated that they had no additional information to provide us.

    Recommendation: The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs should, through the NSC staff, lead the development of a plan guiding the implementation and coordination of threat reduction and nonproliferation programs addressing border security as they have done with the programs addressing the employment of biological weapons scientists. This plan should identify U.S. government goals and objectives, designate departments' roles and responsibilities, and establish procedures to resolve policy and program disputes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The National Security Council did not provide comments on our proposed recommendation or our draft report. Repeated efforts to contact NSC staff regarding this recommendation were not successful.

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