Arms Control:

Improved Coordination of Arms Control Research Needed

NSIAD-92-149: Published: Apr 14, 1992. Publicly Released: May 14, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of coordination of research being performed to verify arms control agreements between the United States and the former Soviet Union, focusing on: (1) how the executive branch decides on the research needed to provide verification instruments to on-site inspectors; (2) whether research and development mechanisms exist to ensure that adequate verification tools will be available to implement existing and future treaties; and (3) the costs of expanded verification requirements for on-site inspections to monitor treaties.

GAO found that: (1) although legislation mandated that the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was mandated by legislation to coordinate arms control research, and the interagency Verification Technology Working Group was created to provide Congress with assurance that arms control research was being coordinated, neither agency identified research requirements or evaluated whether planned or ongoing research projects should be started or continued based on anticipated treaty verification requirements; (2) the Departments of Defense and Energy develop and prioritize research projects independent of each other based on their assessment of what technologies may be used to verify treaties under negotiation or likely to be negotiated; (3) neither ACDA nor the Verification Technology Working Group have the authority to define requirements or the required funding to direct interagency verification research; (4) since neither ACDA nor the Verification Technology Working Group controls research funding, options available to strengthen the coordination process include designating a lead agency with approval authority over research programs, designating ACDA to be the lead agency for policy and another agency to provide technical evaluation of research, and strengthening the existing Verification Technology Working Group; (5) both one-time and annual recurring costs to implement and monitor the five arms control treaties and the bilateral chemical weapons agreement will be substantial; and (6) in March 1991, the Department of Defense estimated the fiscal years 1991 to 1993 funding requirements to be about $1.4 billion for the five treaties.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This report made no recommendations. It identified possible alternatives that agencies might want to consider in defining an interagency coordinating mechanism. Nonetheless, agencies are beginning to support a national requirement process.

    Matter: Although GAO has discussed a number of options in this report, all of them have disadvantages that Congress and the administration need to weigh in deciding how to improve coordination. However, a critical improvement to the current process would be the identification of national verification requirements and an interagency plan that prioritizes funding based on those requirements.


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