Posts tagged with United States

CTBT ratification and fact-twisting arguments

By: Alicia Godsberg

On Friday, February 5 the EastWest Institute (EWI) held a seminar at their office in New York to discuss its recently released report on the CTBT, entitled, “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: New Technology, New Prospects?” Speaking at the event for the pro-CTBT ratification camp was Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr. (Director, Bipartisan Security Group and U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament from 1998-2001) and against was Stephen Rademaker (Senior Council, BGR Government Affairs and Assistant Secretary of State from 2002-2006). The seminar also hosted many representatives of the NGO disarmament community as well as several diplomats from UN missions, including from Iran, Egypt, and South Korea.

Mr. Rademaker articulated familiar reasons for opposing U.S. ratification of the CTBT: it won’t ensure entry into force of the Treaty; the Treaty is unverifiable; the U.S. may need to test in the event the nuclear weapon stockpile becomes unreliable; there is no agreed definition of a “zero yield” nuclear test; and Russia (and possibly China) does not conform to the U.S. definition of absolutely zero yield, enabling them to benefit from such tests while the U.S. adheres to a stricter standard and (presumably) falls behind in knowledge. The fact that each of these assertions has been proven untrue does not stop these talking points from surfacing at every turn.   Continue Reading →

Missile Watch – February 2010

Missile Watch
A publication of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Vol. 3, Issue 1
February 2010
Editor: Matt Schroeder
Contributing Author: Matt Buongiorno
Graphics: Alexis Paige

Contents:

Global Overview

Afghanistan: No recent discoveries of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles in insurgent arms caches
Eritrea: UN slaps arms embargo on major missile proliferator
Iraq: Fewer public reports of seized shoulder-fired missiles in Iraq, but MANPADS still a threat
Ireland: Alleged plot to shoot down a police helicopter may have involved surface-to-air missile
Myanmar: 300 shoulder-fired missiles in insurgent arsenal, claims Thai Colonel
North Korea: North Korean arms shipment included MANPADS, Thai report confirms
Peru: Igla missiles stolen from Peruvian military arsenals, claims alleged trafficker
Spain: Failed assassination attempts underscore the risks for terrorists of relying on black market missiles
United States: Congress to receive DHS report on anti-missile systems for commercial airliners in February
United States: Documents from trial of the “Prince of Marbella” reveal little about his access to shoulder-fired missiles
United States: No new international MANPADS sales since 1999
Venezuela: U.S. receives “assurances” from Russia regarding controls on shoulder-fired missiles sold to Venezuela, but questions remain

Additional News & Resources

About Missile Watch

About the Authors

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Broad Consensus on Gene Synthesis Guidelines

Participants at a January 11th forum on Minimizing the Risks of Synthetic DNA, held at the AAAS, appeared to be in general agreement on the principles behind proposed US guidelines to safeguard the rapidly advancing technology of gene synthesis.

Synthetic biology, a new field made possible by developments in genome sequencing and genetic engineering, seeks to take an engineering-based approach to biological problems.  The story of the malaria drug Artemisinin provides an example of the advances that this new approach can produce.  The drug is currently made from a plant extract, and crop quantities are insufficient to meet global demand.  Through synthetic biology, scientists have been able to engineer yeast capable of performing the multiple reactions necessary to create the drug’s precursor.

However, engineering life also presents the opportunity to create existing, augmented, and/or novel pathogens.  Current restrictions on select agent pathogens, such as Smallpox, are based on the physical safeguarding of live bacterial and viral stocks to keep them from malicious users.  With modern gene synthesis technology, a would-be attacker could potentially obtain a complete pathogen genome by ordering it from commercial DNA providers.

It is in this context that Monday’s forum brought together a wide variety of stakeholders, ranging from Federal regulators to major gene synthesis firms and research organizations.  Though the specifics of guideline implementation were occasionally questioned, there was a surprising degree of consensus concerning future policies implemented by private industry. Continue Reading →

Eight Recommendations for Improving Transparency in US Arms Transfers

Transparency is essential for effective congressional and public oversight of the arms trade, and the US government is widely (and rightly) praised for its reporting on arms exports. Yet there is also significant room for improvement. Reporting on US arms exports and international arms transfers funded or authorized by the US government is often incomplete, unclear and hampered by overly aggregated data. The Obama Administration is clearly committed to improving transparency in government. Whether this commitment will translate into meaningful improvements in data on the arms trade remains to be seen. The latest FAS issue brief provides eight recommendations for improving transparency in US arms transfers. Implementing these recommendations would correct many of the problems with current reporting practices.

Click here to download the issue brief.

Debating New Biosecurity Research Regulations

US Senate consideration of a new biosecurity bill has been delayed to accommodate requests for additional information from the Administration.  The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 (S.1649), introduced by Senators Lieberman and Collins at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, seeks to overhaul the US response to biosecurity threats.  In particular, the legislation focuses on research into potentially dangerous infectious diseases.

Highly infectious diseases are currently designated as select agents and regulated by the Departments of Agriculture (diseases of plants and livestock) or Health and Human Services (human pathogens).  The new legislation would replace this single list with three “tiers”, and research using the most dangerous agents would be overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.  An amendment by Senator Claire McCaskill would allow DHS to shut down labs that do not comply with safety regulations.  However, the bill would also implement so-called personnel reliability programs, common in nuclear research, as a condition for researchers to access the labs.  Recent reports by the government’s National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and the National Academies’ Board of Life Sciences did not recommend such measures at this time.

Though Lieberman, who chairs the committee, has made the bill a top priority, it is unclear when time would permit consideration of the legislation on the Senate floor.

FAS Obtains Key Report on US Arms Exports

Deliveries of arms through the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program decreased by nearly a billion dollars in fiscal year 2008, according to the most recent edition of the Annual Military Assistance Report. The report, which is often referred to as the “Section 655 Report” after the section in the Foreign Assistance Act that requires it, is compiled each year by the Defense Department and the State Department. The Defense Department’s contribution to the report was acquired by the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to this year’s report, FMS deliveries in FY08 totaled $10,996,180,000 – nearly $1 billion less than the $11,910,160,000 delivered in FY2007.  This is surprising given the significant increase in FMS agreements in recent years.   FMS agreements jumped from $9.5 billion in FY2005 to more than $18 billion in FY2006, and nearly doubled again to $36 billion in FY2008. One possible explanation for the apparent lag is that deliveries, and particularly deliveries of big-ticket items, can take years.  If this is the case, FMS delivery totals are likely to rise sharply over the next few years.

Adam Willner contributed to this report.

Click here to read the full article

Obama Urges the Senate to Take Up Key Convention on Illicit Arms Trafficking

At a press conference in Mexico City yesterday, President Obama urged the Senate to take up the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials, which is often referred to by its Spanish acronym, CIFTA.

The Convention aims to curtail the illicit international trade in small arms by requiring member states to establish basic export controls and to cooperate with each other to stop international arms trafficking.  These controls include the establishment of effective systems for authorizing international arms transfers, identifying and preventing arms trafficking at border points, exchanging information on illicit trafficking and best practices for combating it, and providing technical assistance to countries attempting to increase their capacity to identify and thwart arms trafficking.  As stated in the preamble, “this Convention does not commit States Parties to enact legislation or regulations pertaining to firearms ownership, possession, or trade of a wholly domestic character…”

The US played an important role in drafting the Convention, and was one of the first signatories in November, 1997.  The Convention was transmitted to the Senate in June 1998 and, more than a decade later, still awaits the Senate’s advice and consent.  To date, 29 of the 34 OAS member states have ratified the Convention.  Only the US, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Vincent & Grenadines have yet to take that step.

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US Arms Sales to Pakistan: New CRS Report

A new Congressional Research Service report on “U.S. Arms Sales to Pakistan” recently obtained by the FAS provides a succinct overview of recent U.S. arms sales to General Pervez Musharraf’s regime, the tumultous fifty-year history of US security assistance to Pakistan, and presidential authority to stop such sales. The release of the report coincides with a worsening political crisis in Pakistan and growing Congressional and public discontent over the United States’ multi-billion dollar military aid program for General Musharraf’s beseiged and increasingly authoritarian regime.
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FAS Obtains DHS Report on Programs to Counter the Shoulder-fired Missile Threat

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the FAS, the Department of Homeland Security has released a December 2005 report to Congress on the status of DHS’s efforts to counter the threat from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to commercial airliners.

The report, which Congress required as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, sheds new light on several key DHS counter-MANPADS efforts, including airport vulnerability assessments, contingency plans for MANPADS attacks, and intelligence sharing and law enforcement training. These efforts are part of a multi-faceted U.S. campaign to deprive terrorists of access to these weapons and mitigate the threat from missiles that are already in terrorist arsenals.
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