Posts tagged with United States

Nicaragua Agrees to Destroy More MANPADS

On July 13th, the Nicaraguan National Assembly voted to destroy an additional 651 of its large stockpile of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, bringing it one step closer to fulfilling President Enrique Bolanos’s earlier commitment to destroy Nicaragua’s entire stock of Man-portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The Assembly approved the plan despite opposition from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (SNLF), which led a partially successful campaign to derail the US-funded destruction initiative in early 2005.

The missiles – 2000 SA series MANPADS – are the remnants of a massive infusion of Soviet military assistance to the left-leaning Sandinista government, which was the target of a US-supported insurgency in the 1980s. The proxy wars in Central America ended shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the huge stockpiles of Soviet weapons remained – an attractive target for arms traffickers. Diversions of Nicaragua’s missiles date back at least to 1990, when Sandinistan military officers sold 8 missile launchers and 28 missiles to rebels in El Salvador. Three years later, 19 more black market missiles were discovered in the charred remains of a Managuan auto repair shop that doubled as a storage site for a large cache of illicit rockets, mines, explosives and MANPADS. The repair shop caught fire after part of the cache exploded.
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Threat Reduction Legislation Sails through House and Senate Committees

Last week, lawmakers demonstrated their commitment to reining in the black market trade in deadly conventional weapons by forwarding two important bills to the full House and Senate. On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Lugar-Obama Act (S. 2566) by voice vote and without amendment. The bill calls on the State Department to “carry out an accelerated global program” to secure or dispose of surplus and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems and other conventional weapons, and authorizes an additional $25 million in funding for the State Department to accomplish this mission. Two days later, the House International Relations Committee followed suit by passing, also by voice vote and without amendment, the “Shoulder-fired Missile Reduction Act of 2006″ (HR 5333), which authorizes an additional $35 million for securing and destroying poorly secured weapons and imposes sanctions on governments that knowingly transfer MANPADS to terrorists and their state sponsors. Both bills enjoy broad bipartisan support.

A summary of HR 5333 was posted on the SSP blog on May 11th. The full text of the bill and the Lugar-Obama Act is available on the ASMP’s “Bills and Laws” page.

Rep. Royce introduces legislation on shoulder fired missiles

Yesterday Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) introduced a far-reaching bill that, if passed, would boost US efforts to curb the threat posed by Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS).

The “Shoulder-fired Missile Reduction Act of 2006” (HR 5333), which already has 13 co-sponsors from both sides of the political aisle, contains provisions that would

**Expand US stockpile security and destruction assistance programs by authorizing $15 million for these programs in fiscal year 2007 and $20 million in FY2008 (effectively doubling current funding levels);

**Punish states that knowingly transfer missiles to terrorists by cutting off U.S. arms sales and foreign aid (except humanitarian assistance); and

**Improve Congressional understanding of the MANPADS threat and the US government’s response by requiring a report that describes US and international counter-MANPADS activities, the impact of these activities on the illicit trade in MANPADS, and the availability of these weapons to terrorists and their states sponsors.
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For the Record

At a Senate hearing on the foreign aid budget on Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice underscored the importance of “…deny[ing] terrorists access to the world’s most dangerous weapons, including conventional weapons like MANPADS,” and pointed to funding increases in the President’s FY07 budget for State Department programs that “help countries counter the proliferation of dangerous weapons and materials.” While it is true that the FY07 budget request does increase funding for combating the spread of WMD, programs aimed at reducing the threat from surplus and poorly secured conventional weapons – the weapons of choice for many terrorists – actually take a (slight) hit in the President’s budget. The $8.6 million request for the State Department’s small arms/light weapons destruction fund in FY07 is $60,000 less than the program’s budget for FY06.
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Small Arms/Light Weapons Destruction Budget

The FY07 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations is now available on the State Department’s website. The CBJ contains a detailed breakdown of the President’s budget request for foreign aid programs, including programs related to conventional arms threat reduction.

Of particular importance is the $8.6 million request for the State Department’s SA/LW destruction program. This amount is a slight decrease from last year’s budget of $8.663 million, and it falls far short of Congressional expectations. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) hearing on February 9th, Senator Joseph Biden remarked that “$8 million doesn’t even get a blip on the screen,” a sentiment echoed by Senator Barak Obama, who called it “decimal dust.” State Department Undersecretary Robert Joseph acknowledged that his team could do more on conventional weapons reduction if it had more money, but warned against diverting funds from other valuable nonproliferation programs.
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