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Diplomacy in Action

Meeting Emerging Nonproliferation Challenges: U.S. Department of State Programs

Simon Limage
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Center for International Trade & Security -- University of Georgia
St. Athens, GA
March 29, 2013


(As Prepared)


It is my pleasure to be here today to discuss how the programs of the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) contribute to strengthening international nonproliferation norms and expanding multilateral strategic trade cooperation.

I want to begin by thanking the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia for inviting me to attend this Session of the Security and Strategic Trade Management Academy. This is an excellent forum to discuss the role of the Department of State’s programs in addressing current and emerging challenges in strategic trade controls. The ISN Bureau pursues several initiatives to confront multifaceted challenges posed by proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. One of these is training foreign government officials in internationally-accepted export control policies, processes, and methodologies. We are pleased to be able to provide support to the Security and Strategic Trade Management Academy and the CITS/UGA to deliver this training.

The proliferation of WMD and their delivery systems, as well as conventional weapons that can be used to destabilize societies present grave threats to national, regional, and global security. As responsible nations tighten their controls on trade in conventional military technologies, unscrupulous individuals, organizations, and states shift their attention to acquisition of so-called dual-use goods. These goods have legitimate commercial applications, but can also be used to support illicit WMD or ballistic missile programs.

We know that the threat is real. Continuing seizures of nuclear and radioactive materials, such as the seizures of weapons-usable nuclear material in Georgia and Moldova in 2010 and 2011, suggest such materials remain in illegal circulation and could be acquired by terrorists or proliferators. Numerous interdictions of illicit dual-use shipments by the United States and our friends and allies indicate that efforts to develop covert WMD programs have not abated. North Korean and Iranian procurement networks continue to exploit unwitting suppliers and trans-shipment hubs to acquire materials needed for their nuclear and missile programs. North Korea’s recent belligerence, the threat of chemical weapons attack on civilian population in Syria, or the risk of weapons proliferation in Libya all illustrate the perilous link between illicit trade in dual-use items and global security.

As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, I would like to focus my remarks on illustrating how the offices and programs in my purview confront emerging nonproliferation challenges. I will then conclude with some thoughts that I hope will inspire further consideration and discussion while you are gathered here at UGA. I will be happy to take questions at the end of my presentation.

ISN Nonproliferation Program Overview

State’s Nonproliferation programs are designed to address the multi-faceted nature of proliferation threats -- from engaging individual scientists with WMD expertise to tackling systemic deficiencies and handling unanticipated threats. We take a coordinated approach: complementing efforts to consolidate materials, engage scientists, and secure facilities with broader efforts to regulate legitimate trade in dual-use goods; ensuring that WMD detection and interdiction efforts are supported by good investigating and prosecutorial practices, utilizing appropriate laws and policies; and helping partners to remove and destroy the WMD materials and their delivery systems. To address proliferation threats on a regional, national, and international level, ISN Programs work cooperatively with other nonproliferation assistance providers in the United States and around the world to raise nonproliferation awareness in critical partner countries. Our programs, promote exchange of technical expertise and best practices, and advance harmonization and strengthening of international nonproliferation norms.

ISN/CTR’s Global Threat Reduction Programs (GTR) engage chemical, biological and nuclear experts in countries and regions where terrorism and proliferation threats are greatest, with a goal of reducing the risk of terrorists and proliferant states’ access to WMD-related technical expertise and materials, including in countries such as Yemen, Iraq, and other high-priority countries in the Middle East. These core GTR programs promote biosafety and best practices in biorisk management, encourage the adoption of chemical safety and security best practices, work to establish a self-sufficient a self-sufficient nuclear security culture.

The EXBS Program, administered by ISN/ECC, forms the next layer of ISN’s nonproliferation efforts. EXBS works with partner governments to build comprehensive strategic trade control and border security systems. EXBS assistance focuses on developing partner countries’ capacities in five critical areas: legal and regulatory frameworks, licensing systems, enforcement, industry outreach, and interagency coordination. The Program is active in countries that possess, produce, or supply goods and materials found on the control lists of multilateral export control regimes - the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Australia Group, and the Wassenaar Arrangement. The EXBS Program is also active in countries through which such items are most likely to transit. Comprehensive strategic trade control management systems enable EXBS partner governments to responsibly regulate legitimate transfers of sensitive items and to target, detect, and interdict illicit trade and punish the violators.

The Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism (WMDT) undertakes projects to improve international capabilities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to a terrorist attack involving WMD. For instance, WMDT’s Preventing Nuclear Smuggling Program (PNSP) works with countries identified by the U.S. Intelligence Community as vulnerable to nuclear smuggling to negotiate joint action plans with their governments to strengthen indigenous capabilities to counter nuclear smuggling. WMDT also identifies assistance activities that would support implementation of these joint action plans. WMDT funds many of these projects directly and also seeks foreign donors to contribute to these counter nuclear smuggling projects. WMDT is funding projects to help partners develop their capabilities to locate materials on the black market and secure them; arrest and prosecute the smugglers; and strengthen nuclear forensics cooperation. WMDT has also secured more than $64 million in foreign contributions to support counter nuclear smuggling projects in our partner countries.

The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), also in the WMDT office, seeks to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear/radiological terrorism by conducting multilateral activities that strengthen the plans, policies, procedures, and interoperability of partner nations in the areas of nuclear detection, nuclear forensics, and mitigation and response.

Finally, the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) provides a means for the U.S. Government to respond rapidly to nonproliferation and disarmament opportunities, circumstances, or conditions that are unanticipated or unusually difficult and of high priority. For instance, NDF provided funding to facilitate the safe removal of nuclear infrastructure from Lybia to secure facilities in the United States in 2004. NDF also funded elimination of a chemical weapons production equipment and facilities and secured chemical agents in the Balkans.

Unlike traditional State Department or other U.S. nonproliferation assistance programs, NDF resources are not committed to any project or region in advance and enable the U.S. Government to undertake rapid-response threat reduction work around the globe, supporting bilateral and multilateral efforts to halt proliferation and to secure, remove, or destroy WMD and their delivery systems.

Emerging Challenges

These Programs and initiatives enable the State Department to respond to different types of proliferation behaviors, but I would like to stress that our challenges are not static. Proliferators and their support networks are responding in increasingly creative ways, exploiting the vulnerability of the interconnected global trading and information systems.

Wiley proliferators obscure the actual destination of their illicit shipments by using circuitous shipping routes and multiple intermediate transshipments. They seek out liberal trading environments and unsuspecting suppliers to circumvent existing trade restrictions. They exploit legal loopholes to broker illicit transactions between third countries and cover up the true end-users of strategic goods by falsifying names on shipping declarations. They state false end-uses for controlled goods – such as listing chemical weapons precursors as goods “for production of pesticides.” They seek items that fall just below the threshold of regime controls in order to avoid those controls. And they exploit porous border security conditions to set up smuggling routes in our partner countries.

The proliferators are aided in these pursuits by the ever-increasing pressure to expedite trade transactions and lower trade barriers to spur economic development and technology transfer. In light of these pressures, countries that have not adopted strategic trade control best practices may find it difficult to secure the internal political support to make establishing such a system a priority. It is no secret that nonproliferation is only one of many critical priorities competing for attention among the political, economic, and parliamentary agendas of many countries around the world.

As a result, we must tailor our efforts to address these cross-cutting challenges by raising political will of governments, educating industry and the public, and increasing our reach through collaboration with like-minded states and organizations.

Programmatic Toolkit

In addressing diverse proliferation threats, ISN uses a flexible toolkit to cement cooperation and coordination among like-minded nonproliferation practitioners around the globe and to cultivate sustainable nonproliferation champions.

1. To accomplish this we address issues of awareness, will and capacity. Our awareness-raising efforts target government, industry and academic audiences in partner countries. For instance, EXBS sponsors an annual International Export Control conference to bring approximately 300 national policymakers and technical strategic trade control experts from about 80 countries together to share information about proliferation challenges and the latest developments in the multilateral nonproliferation regimes, to compare experiences, and to facilitate information-sharing and networking. For the past three years, this conference has been co-sponsored by the European Union, which also has an export control outreach program. This year, we decided to convene an experts meeting in Brussels, Belgium in lieu of the annual conference to develop a common approach to promoting adoption of advanced strategic trade controls, such as catch-all, dual-use brokering, controls on information technology, and transshipment controls, in our partner countries.

EXBS also conducts thematic seminars, focusing international attention on specific strategic trade and border control issues, such as transshipment and proliferation financing. In 2013, EXBS will conduct two proliferation financing events for the Middle East and Caspian regions. The Doha Conference on Combating the Financing of Proliferation of WMD is scheduled to take place next month and will address development of national-level mechanisms to combat the financing of proliferation and to facilitate implementation of the new standards promulgated by the Financial Action Task Force. We are cooperating with our counterparts at the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Justice in the organization of this Conference to reach the financial sector in our partner countries.

ISN programs also work with partner governments to enhance outreach to local industry. These efforts are designed to increase transparency of nonproliferation efforts in partner countries and build industry’s capacity to screen suspicious transactions and problematic end-users.

This engagement is two-fold and addresses facility security and industry compliance. First, GTR works to enhance facility security and industry best practices at facilities that pursue nuclear, chemical and biological research to prevent materials or know-how from falling into the hands of terrorists, non-state actors, and proliferant states. For instance, GTR is pursuing adoption of physical security measures and improved security procedures to increase security at infectious disease laboratories in Yemen.

Second, EXBS works to improve the understanding of and compliance with relevant international strategic trade control regulations among manufacturers, exporters, brokers, and shippers of dual-use and munitions goods. EXBS provides tools to develop and implement internal compliance systems to improve industry’s capacity to screen suspicious transactions, prevent unintentional transfers of proliferation relevant technologies, facilitate effective records-keeping practices, and promote voluntary self-disclosure. In addition to cultivating a more responsible industry sector, these efforts also significantly reduce costs associated with enforcement actions. Currently, EXBS supports active industry outreach efforts in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Croatia, and other partner countries.

Finally, ISN offices work with academic organizations and research centers in partner countries. For instance, EXBS facilitates establishment of routine linkages between for front-line enforcement officials by facilitating establishment of routine linkages with national chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological research centers so that law enforcement can count on their help when they need it.

2. Another important mechanism in our toolkit is providing our partners with access to training and technical expertise to facilitate development, implementation, and enforcement of nonproliferation policies and procedures. We accomplish this by focusing on providing legal-regulatory assistance and specialized training for licensing and enforcement officers to cultivate national technical expertise.

EXBS pursues efforts to help harmonize national export control systems with international standards. EXBS assists partner countries with developing or strengthening their national strategic trade control legislation and regulations to be consistent with guidelines and lists of the multilateral export control regimes.

The EXBS program uses specialized cross-border WMD detection and interdiction training, in-country advisors, and provision of border security equipment to develop interagency-coordinated enforcement capabilities in partner nations. Through its U.S. interagency partners, EXBS provides technical inspection and commodity identification training to front-line customs and border security officials in partner countries. EXBS also focuses on training investigators, judges, and prosecutors to ensure that smugglers and export control violators are brought to justice. For instance, EXBS, through coordination with U.S. interagency partners and the international community, is providing tailored border security assistance to the Government of Libya focused on technical training and limited equipment procurement to prevent the illicit trafficking of sensitive items. Since April 2012, the EXBS Program has conducted three border security trainings, including a donation of essential enforcement equipment, and a senior-level International Visitors Program to the United States for nine officials from the Libyan Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Customs Authority.

ISN works with other U.S. agencies and partner nations to provide training and equipment to establish national counter-nuclear-smuggling teams so that governments can identify and track nuclear smuggling networks, arrest smugglers, and locate and secure black market material. GICNT is building technical capability in nuclear detection and nuclear forensics. In addition, GICNT is beginning to address a new focus area, Nuclear Terrorism Response and Mitigation. Through workshops, seminars, and exercises, experts and observers from 85 GICNT partners countries share information and jointly develop best practices that will assist partner nations in enhancing their own capabilities.

3. To increase sustainability of U.S. nonproliferation assistance efforts, ISN programs seeks to secure a partner country’s buy-in. For instance, WMDT negotiates government-to-government joint action plans that outline steps that the partner government agrees to take to strengthen its capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to incidents of nuclear smuggling and identifies assistance that may be required to help attain these capabilities. These steps may include such actions as repatriating highly enriched uranium, converting reactors to run on low-enriched uranium, maintaining security upgrades provided by the Department of Energy, securing radioactive materials that could be used in a dirty bomb, adding radiation detectors at priority border crossings, improving law enforcement tools, strengthening nuclear forensics cooperation, and increasing information sharing with the United States and other partners.

Similarly, EXBS encourages partner countries to undertake legislative reforms that would mandate responsible regulation of trade in strategic items and create or strengthen national institutions for licensing and enforcement of such trade. On an institutional basis, EXBS help partner nations indigenize licensing and enforcement training through train-the-trainer seminars and short-term advisory deployments.

Finally, EXBS maintains an informative website on strategic trade controls for international community and for inter-government coordination (

Coordination with Other Donors

As I mentioned previously, the objective of ISN’s Nonproliferation Programs is to share information, exchange best practices, and build national technical capabilities in partner countries to combat evolving proliferation threats. In that effort, ISN works with other U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Justice, Energy and Defense, as well as with other nonproliferation assistance providers, such as the European Union, Japan, Canada, and Australia. Moreover, we are leveraging the substantive expertise and geographic reach of international organizations by partnering with the IAEA, WCO, UNODC, OSCE, and OAS.

ISN/CTR works closely alongside the State Department’s Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the G-8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (G-8 Global Partnership) and facilitates coordination of other U.S. initiatives seeking increased contributions for nonproliferation assistance from other governments. WMDT seeks funding from international donors for assistance projects and funds projects directly when other donors are unavailable and leverages international funding to fund projects where no foreign donors can be found. ISN also leads U.S. participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), which is a cross-cutting strategic framework of 85 nations and four official observers (IAEA, EU, INTERPOL and UNODC).

EXBS pursues close cooperation with EU’s assistance implementer, the German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA), in engagement of joint partners. In addition, EXBS cooperates with international organizations whose efforts EXBS programs complement, such as the IAEA and World Customs Organization (WCO). These partnerships enable EXBS to emphasize both compliance and trade facilitation objectives of strategic trade control and contribute to greater sustainability of EXBS assistance.

ISN Nonproliferation programs also work closely with the U.S. interagency community when planning and implementing activities. For example, WMDT delegations that negotiate joint action plans generally have representatives from the Departments of Energy, Defense, Homeland Security, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and any other U.S. agency with ongoing work in the target country to ensure the joint action plan reflects a whole-of-government approach. Similarly, the Departments of Homeland Security, Energy, Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation provide expert support to GICNT activities in nuclear forensics, nuclear detection, and response and mitigation.

EXBS also draws on the expertise of related U.S. Government programs, the private sector, and academic community to implement its objectives. For instance, EXBS collaborates with the Defense Department’s International Counterproliferation Program, the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance and International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement programs, and the Department of Energy’s Second Line of Defense and International Nonproliferation Export Control programs. Further, licensing and enforcement experts from the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and Homeland Security contribute their expertise to EXBS activities. ISN/ECC also chairs the Interagency Working Group on Nonproliferation Export and Border Control Assistance, which includes representatives of the CTR, WMDT, NDF, and other relevant U.S. government programs.

Taken together, these efforts help countries fulfill their obligations and commitments related to nonproliferation requirements and initiatives. These include UNSCRs 1540, 1874 (DPRK), and 1929 (Iran), as well as the Proliferation Security Initiative, the President’s commitment to secure all vulnerable nuclear material, and commitments to adhere to the policies and practices of the multilateral export control regimes.


I hope I have provided you with an understanding of programs I lead in the State Department and with an appreciation of the rich array of programs and tools we use to confront these emerging challenges and to cultivate, sustain, and expand a network of likeminded nonproliferation practitioners. I also hope my remarks will prompt you to consider what each of you can do to grow our community. I hope you will continue to promote public, industry, and government awareness of proliferation threats. I also hope that you will continue to take active part in bilateral and multilateral efforts to implement nonproliferation best practices and encourage allocation of sufficient human and financial resources to the advancement of nonproliferation causes. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given this university setting, I hope you will support education of the next generation of nonproliferation practitioners.

I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Thank you!

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