Reforming Nonproliferation Programming
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for the kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be here, and all the more so because it gives me a chance to talk about how we are currently thinking about nonproliferation programming in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN).
ISN’s principal mission is to deter, contain, limit, and roll back the threats presented by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, related materials and technologies, increasingly sophisticated delivery systems, and advanced conventional weapons by state or non-state actors. These issues are of enormous importance to national and international security, of course, and we are resolutely dedicated to this mission.
While ISN’s primary nonproliferation responsibilities remain both constant and urgent, I have also directed the Bureau to focus more upon how to re-shape the international security environment in ways that better advance U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives in a broader sense. Specifically, we aim to do more in support of this Administration’s emphasis not just upon proliferation and terrorism threats but also upon the imperatives of restoring U.S. geopolitical competitiveness against rival powers after a generation in which we forgot that such competition continues to be a central aspect of international relations. For this reason, ISN is now also working to use its skills and expertise to help promote the U.S. national security innovation base, prevent damaging technology transfers to geopolitical adversaries, and protect America’s technological edge.
Both of those facets of our work are, naturally, very exciting and important. But I also want to make sure that you don’t forget the third key aspect of our work at the Bureau – our nonproliferation programming – because exciting and important things are afoot in that arena as well. So let me explain what we are doing.
Foreign assistance, of course, has traditionally been a core mission of the Department of State. Nevertheless, budgets are tight these days, and the threats facing the United States – and our allies, friends, and partners – are varied and complex. It is thus imperative both that the U.S. taxpayer gets the greatest possible “bang for the buck” from funds devoted to overseas programming, and that all Americans know that the U.S. government is allocating assistance money as effectively as possible to meet the most important threats and challenges that face us in the world.
At ISN, we are working to meet this challenge head on, and are in the process of reforming our nonproliferation assistance programs in light of the twin imperatives of threat-based prioritization and programmatic effectiveness. I’d like to tell you about this effort.
I. ISN’s Nonproliferation Programming
This reform effort is quite important, because we actually do a great deal of such programming – some $250 million or so each year. We use this money to engage with governments and industries around the world in many ways, through capacity-building assistance that helps other countries be better partners with the United States in combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems, advanced conventional weapons, and other such dangerous materials and technology.
We help other countries, for instance, train and equip their border guards and security forces against proliferation threats; we develop and implement sound export control and technology-transfer regulatory regimes; we secure their borders against nuclear smuggling; we implement nuclear safeguards; we enforce U.N. sanctions against rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran; and we equip first responders to deal with WMD use. Our engagements with foreign partners, moreover, go beyond traditional government-to-government interactions, and also employ implementers from international organizations, U.S. and foreign think tanks, U.S. national laboratories, and academic institutions.
Within ISN, the Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) seeks to mitigate the risk of irresponsible use of and access to WMD, and works to prevent proliferator states and terrorist groups from developing or acquiring WMD and delivery systems to attack the U.S. homeland or U.S. interests abroad. CTR works closely with partner countries to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolutions and builds partner country capacities to cut off resources that proliferator states use to advance their WMD and missile programs. CTR also implements a suite of chemical, biological, and nuclear security activities to prevent acquisition of WMD by state and non-state actors.
The Office of Export Control Cooperation (ECC) administers the Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) Program. EXBS trains border security personnel and law enforcement officials to detect, interdict, investigate, and prosecute illicit transfers of such items and to ensure that international ports of entry, such as seaports and airports, have adequate equipment to screen suspicious cargo. EXBS also assists partner countries in the establishment of independent strategic trade controls to regulate transfers of technologies and materiel that could be used for WMD, related delivery systems, or advanced conventional weapons. To strengthen compliance with international strategic trade control norms and U.N. sanctions resolutions, EXBS also conducts outreach to the private sector to help industry better understand its nonproliferation obligations.
Our Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism (WMDT) works with foreign partners to establish, strengthen, and maintain capabilities to prevent, detect, defeat, and respond to terrorist attempts to smuggle, acquire, or use chemical, biological, radioactive, or nuclear materials. WMDT also works multilaterally to advance these capabilities, including through the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
Finally, our Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) is a special projects fund that is used primarily to address urgent nonproliferation priorities such as eliminating missiles, dismantling nuclear facilities, and addressing chemical use by the Assad regime.
Taken together, these various programs underpin a multi-pronged approach to help partner governments keep potentially dangerous technologies out of the hands of terrorists or proliferators through creating effective proliferation barriers at the facility, institutional, national, and multilateral levels. ISN nonproliferation assistance programs thus help create a “layered defense” against the flow and movement of weapons, WMD materials, and expertise.
ISN’s nonproliferation technical expertise, broad diplomatic experience, and nonproliferation assistance programs place it on the cutting edge of State Department and broader U.S. Government efforts against grave threats to U.S. national security and international peace and security – threats emphasized in this Administration’s National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, as well as the State Department-USAID Joint Strategic Plan for FY 2017-2022.
II. Reforming Nonproliferation Programming
But we cannot rest on our laurels, and — because money doesn’t grow on trees — we must ensure that our programming meets the challenge I mentioned earlier. Specifically, we must work to ensure that our programs are always targeted as effectively as possible at the most urgent threats.
It has been some time since there was a real, bottom-up review of the State Department’s nonproliferation programming. If we are to be good stewards of the U.S. taxpayer’s money and of the national security interests of all Americans, however, we need to be willing to keep our programming model up to date, so that it is as relevant as possible in light of changing circumstances.
Accordingly, I have directed and am overseeing a review of our programming with this objective in mind. This has been underway for some months, and one result of this review has been a new initiative to explore how to use our capacity-building skills to help foreign partners resist the depredations of powers seeking to acquire Western technology for military uses in support of revisionist agendas that threaten to destabilize entire regions of the globe.
More broadly, however – and in keeping with the assumption that because resources are finite and life is short, we should seek engagement with foreign partners not for its own sake, but rather in order to achieve clear improvements in U.S. national security – I have directed that ISN reassess its programming from the ground up in order to ensure that it really does focus upon the highest priority threats. To address these complex challenges, we have initiated a restructuring of ISN nonproliferation assistance and capacity-building programs in order to help the ISN Team have greater flexibility in the use of our limited assistance resources in order to achieve maximum impact on the ground.
A. Supporting Top National Security Priorities
One of our watch phrases is to “focus on national security priorities.” We are emphasizing several key areas:
Maximizing pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including its nuclear and missile programs, in order to constrain the development of threat programs and incentivize Pyongyang’s agreement to final and fully verified denuclearization;
Impeding and countering Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and its external proliferation activities in support of the broader U.S. campaign to drive toward a better and more comprehensive negotiated solution as outlined by Secretary Pompeo in his speech on this subject on May 21, 2018;
Preventing chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime and helping the people of Syria be better prepared to cope with additional chemical weapons atrocities by the regime;
Defeating terrorists’ pursuit of WMD capabilities;
Impeding Russia’s malign and destabilizing activities;
Promoting stability in regional security relationships, especially where regional powers have or face pressures to acquire nuclear weapons; and
Implementing counter proliferation pressures in order to impede and respond to nuclear and missile programs that have the potential to target the U.S. homeland, allies, or partners.
These priorities apply across the Bureau, but it also includes our programming work. A demonstrable connection to one of these specified priorities now needs to be shown, and proposed initiatives need, in effect, to compete with each other for funding – so that as we implement these reforms, U.S. leaders can have confidence that the marginal nonproliferation dollar is always being used against the greatest unmet need.
B. Coordination Across Organizational Stovepipes
Another watchword is “coordination,” for despite the inherent complementarity of purpose among ISN’s program offices, the efforts of Bureau nonproliferation assistance programs in the past often lacked integration with the work of the ISN policy offices. To maximize impact against security threats, however, we needed to align programs with the policy and the nonproliferation instruments employed by ISN – for instance, sanctions and counter proliferation dialogues. We are now working to do this, removing artificial bureaucratic barriers and enabling ISN programs to become better force multipliers for important policy work.
In support of the top priority Secretary Pompeo has placed upon supporting the President’s pressure campaign against North Korea in order to constrain the development of its threat programs and lay the groundwork for negotiated denuclearization, for instance, our CTR office has shifted to focus more on activities that build partner country capacities to cut off resources used by proliferator states to advance their nuclear and missile programs.
Similarly, the ECC Office has expanded border security programming specifically focused upon the threat of WMD terrorism. The EXBS Program, for example, has provided inspection equipment and border security training to Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan, to detect and respond to chemical weapons threats emanating from Syria. Most recently, EXBS was called upon to refurbish the Rabia port of entry on the Iraq-Syria border. EXBS’ mission included upgrading the infrastructure, providing training to border security personnel, and supplying X-ray imaging equipment with which to scan luggage and cargo crossing the border.
This EXBS assistance enabled Iraqi authorities minimize the risk that Rabia border crossing might become a thoroughfare for ISIS fighters and smuggled weapons. In responding to the priority the U.S. government placed on the defeat-ISIS campaign and preventing WMD terrorism, EXBS was able to capitalize on its long-standing relationship with Iraqi border security officials and its proven track record. ECC is also training regional border security officials to identify fraudulent documents in order to minimize the threat posed by returning foreign fighters who may have WMD-related expertise and CW battlefield experience.
EXBS is also expanding programming to strengthen investigative capabilities of partners to detect and deter terrorist attacks against public transportation targets, such as airports or seaports. In Egypt, through the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations, EXBS is providing investigative training to the representatives of Egyptian Administrative Control Authority – which is responsible for internal corruption and cross-border criminal investigations. The Egyptians will use these skills to help prevent terrorist attacks against public transportation targets.
Additionally, our WMDT Office is expanding its work on preventing, detecting, and responding to nuclear and other radioactive material smuggling to include addressing threats posed by terrorists seeking or using chemical weapons and seeking potentially dangerous biological materials. WMDT is thus now working — both bilaterally with partner countries and multilaterally — to address national gaps in preventing and countering terrorists’ pursuit of the full range of CBRN threats. Acting, in part, through international organizations such as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, and others, we will address gaps in partner countries’ CBRN-related legislation and investigative capabilities.
C. Flexibility and Agility
A third point of emphasis is “flexibility,” for as part of ensuring that we can provide innovative responses to the highest national security threats, we have created informal task forces and “tiger teams” that pull relevant experts together, as needed, from multiple offices to concentrate on specific issues that require input from across a range of subject-matter specializations. We are using this matrix-managed “task force” approach to help cope with the challenges presented by implementing sanctions against Russia pursuant to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA), restoring the full panoply of nonproliferation sanctions against Iran while driving toward a better and more comprehensive agreement to follow the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, and maximizing pressure against North Korea while preparing to implement denuclearization should Pyongyang agree to it. With these internal, cross-office Bureau teams, we seek to leverage ISN expertise — irrespective of where it may normally be housed — to deal with high-priority U.S. national security challenges that demand coordinated, multidisciplinary responses.
D. Threat-Prioritized Programmatics
A fourth area of emphasis for us to how funding is managed for nonproliferation programs. This Administration inherited a system in which nonproliferation programming was largely managed in country-specific stovepipes, between which it was very difficult to move money even in response to pressing needs in a complex and evolving international security environment. In fact, most of the EXBS budget is currently contained within 55 bilateral accounts and five regional accounts — a structure that generally requires that EXBS spend such funds only within the specified countries or regions.
In my view, this system was far too inflexible to meet contemporary needs. It may have been a fine arrangement for officials whose policy priority was simply to engage in partnerships with as many other countries as possible, but this was not good enough for those of us more focused upon ensuring that finite foreign assistance resources are directed as effectively as possible to meeting the highest priority national security threats.
Accordingly, as part of our work to reform how we do our nonproliferation programming — and after extensive consultations with regional Bureaus, other U.S. government agencies, and international partners — we are working with the State Department’s Office of Foreign Assistance Resources (a.k.a. “F”) to realign the kaleidoscope of EXBS bilateral funds. When this multi-year transition is complete, we will be far more able to maximize our effectiveness by ensuring that ISN is always directing each nonproliferation programming dollar to the highest priority unaddressed need.
In support of this migration to a globally threat-prioritized system, our ECC office developed a Threat Prioritization Index, which ranks all 67 current EXBS partners based on the WMD proliferation risks with which they are associated, their capability to mitigate those risks, and the strategic trade patterns in and through each country (i.e., the potential transit or smuggling pathways along which dangerous technologies and materials might move).
This in-house threat prioritization matrix, which incorporates input from both the intelligence community and open sources, underpins our EXBS realignment. The matrix is designed to help us evaluate the potential threat-reduction effectiveness of actual or potential programming efforts, allowing effort to be focused where it is most needed, and money to be saved where it is not. With help from the Sandia National Laboratory, moreover, the matrix is being updated and expanded — from covering only existing EXBS partners to covering the entire world — so that it can serve as a more effective “targeting algorithm” to help guide our efforts to direct nonproliferation programming against the most acute needs in the years ahead.
In countries that the matrix suggests face lower-level threats — and so far, this means South and Eastern Europe — ECC plans to wrap up its current programming efforts on an expedited timeline, and shift local assets or facilities to host country ownership by the end of fiscal year 2019. As those local programs wind down, EXBS will continue to provide limited technical assistance to ensure sustainability, but it will eliminate support to lower-threat countries as the program mission is accomplished and shift financial and personnel resources to high-threat areas.
This move alone will enable EXBS to realign close to $10 million in FY2018 bilateral funding from country-specific to global and regional accounts, thereby making it more easily and enduringly available to help address more urgent threats. As our efforts continue and mature, EXBS aims to roughly double its centrally-managed account and triple its regional accounts by realigning funds from bilateral allocations.
Over time, this resource realignment will enable us to ensure threat-prioritized programming on an ongoing basis — not only directing resources where they are most needed, but also being able quickly and effectively to respond to evolving threats and engage new partners as circumstances require in a complex and dangerous world.
E. Graduation and Performance Metrics
Placing more emphasis upon ensuring that we continue any given program only for so long as it remains necessary also means that we need to do more to build concepts of “graduation” into our program efforts, and to improve program evaluation through more effective performance metrics.
Our WMDT Office, for instance, has already transitioned two of its bilateral partners to an “advanced partner” status, indicating that these countries have now — with our help over several years — developed a solid indigenous capability to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear and other radioactive material smuggling. Now, these “advanced partners” can assist with training efforts in their region of the world and serve as mentors to other, less advanced countries. This allows us to use our own outlays more efficiently elsewhere, against the greatest unmet needs, while still continuing to address threats in the original region by leveraging the partner expertise we helped create — using it as a catalyst for improving the capabilities of additional countries.
With regard to performance metrics, it can be challenging to know to what degree one is making a dent in a problem such as nuclear smuggling. It is precisely the purpose of nonproliferation programming to prevent bad things from happening, of course, and illicit movements of WMD-facilitating technology and materials, delivery systems, and advanced conventional weapons are not so common that one can chart trend lines with the (relative) fidelity that is perhaps possible with licit commodities, narcotrafficking, or flows of migrants or refugees. If you see nothing untoward — in a proliferation sense —occurring at a border crossing that used to be easy for smugglers to transit, for instance, does that mean your new, U.S.-trained guards and scanners have successfully deterred catastrophe? Or that you’ve wasted your money because proliferation-facilitating smuggling wasn’t really a problem there in the first place?
Nevertheless, it is not at all impossible to determine — on a “before and after” basis — whether local capabilities have improved, and the degree to which international “best practices” are being followed, and EXBS is reviewing its long-standing evaluation methodology to develop better ways to evaluate its expanding work in border security. The current methodology does not offer a comprehensive framework for evaluating effectiveness of EXBS programming to improve targeting, inspection, detection, and investigative skills of partner governments. But we’ll do better, and our ISN team will work to ensure that we are always evaluating all our programming to ensure that it is producing the best possible results in addressing security threats.
F. Other Efficiencies
Finally, we seek to take advantage of other efficiencies in order to ensure that nonproliferation programming maximizes value for the U.S. taxpayer while it reduces national security threats to the United States. These efforts did not begin with our current programming reform work, but they are another important element of our current push to reform and revitalize nonproliferation programming.
As one example — as also suggested by my account of WMDT’s efforts to enlist “advanced partner” countries in training others — we are focusing as much as possible upon “train the trainers” work, in which we help create and then leverage the skills of local experts. This leveraging effect can be especially useful where it would be difficult for U.S. trainers to do the key work directly. EXBS, for instance, is one of only a very few U.S. government programs able to conduct training for Libyan security officials despite the civil war that’s been raging there.
Since April 2017, EXBS has provided training in land and air border security for Libyan border security and defense personnel, and is now working with Libyan training academies to institutionalize this training in Libyan hands. This program has been contributing, at least in some way, not just to helping limit or stop the flow of weapons from the Libyan conflict to terrorists abroad, but also to helping create the physical security that might allow a democratic transition to take place in that traumatized country.
We also work, wherever we can, in conjunction with other assistance providers in order to facilitate cost-sharing and amplify the reach of limited resources. For example, for the EXBS Yemen border security training program, Saudi Arabia has made in-kind contributions of approximately $300,000 to support Yemeni trainees — and has been providing venue, travel costs, lodging, and meals. Since EXBS cannot conduct training in Yemen itself on account of the conditions there, being able to use Saudi Arabia’s training facilities has been a major benefit. Similarly, Norway supported EXBS border security efforts in Ukraine by contributing funds to equipment procurement, while Canada provided funding to support organization of the International Export Control conference in the Czech Republic.
Our engagement with partner countries can also help catalyze additional efforts by other donors and relevant international organizations. In Jordan, for example, EXBS provided a controlled commodity identification training for customs officials, to strengthen cargo inspection and interdiction techniques and shut off critical proliferation pathways. This helped pave the way for our work with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s Container Control Program to establish a specialized enforcement unit at the Port of Aqaba, the largest transshipment hub in Jordan. EXBS also partnered with the World Customs Organization to deploy the Cargo Targeting System at the Port. The result? Improved Jordanian capabilities coupled with international engagement to sustain progress in border security and counter-smuggling capacity in a key partner country next door to one of the most horrific civil wars and terrorist breeding grounds in modern history.
That is a lot of detail, and I am grateful for your patience. Despite all the detail, however, please don’t mistake the bottom line: nonproliferation assistance programs are critical tools for advancing U.S. national security, national interests, and national values. In using them, we have a proud legacy to uphold, but we can do even better — and our work to reform nonproliferation programming is making this possible. The American people deserve to live in a world free of the threats that our programs can help mitigate, and we’re working hard to deliver on this promise.
This is an exciting aspect of our work at the ISN Bureau, and I’m pleased at the changes we are making. Transforming the planning, operation, and delivery of State Department nonproliferation programming is well underway, and we will continue to seek ways to make our programs even more targeted, responsive, and innovative.
I am sorry for taking so much of your time, but these aspects of the nonproliferation business are ones too little understood outside the bureaucracy.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions.