Jeffrey LewisBush Slashes CTBTO Contribution (Dumb Austerity Measure 1)

The CTBTO offices in Vienna.

The Bush Administration has hacked 25 percent from its budget request for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), reports David Ruppe over at Global Security Newswire.

The Bush Administration’s FY 2006 Budget Request includes $ 14.35 M for FY 2006, down from $19 million appropriated by Congress for 2005.

This is self-defeating: More than 80 percent of the CTBTO’s budget is allocated to verification related activities, including more than $30 M for the ongoing construction of the global network of 321 monitoring stations.

Whether or not we plan to test nuclear weapons, it is in our interest to know if other countries are doing so.

The budget language implies that the cut is intended to only fund the International Monitoring System (IMS)—but the CTBT budget doesn’t work that way. [Side note: I though our contribution was set at 22 percent, which means our contribution should be $23.1 M. If that is the case, our request is just about 60 percent of our assessment. I’ve got some wonking ahead of me.]

CTBTO spokesperson Daniela Rozgonova was nonplussed about the impact on the CTBTO’s $105 million budget:

Yes, it’s money for us. You bet. But in the larger scheme of things, it’s only so-much percent.”

Between five and nine percent, actually. And an important symbolic contribution, either way: China and Iran have been criticized for less than enthusiastic work toward completion of IMS stations, in part because they don’t want to end up holding the bag for operating and maintence costs supposed to be covered by the CTBTO.

This could be a real issue. Last time I checked, the CTBTO budgets in dollars—a dues shortfall combined with a weak currency could make real trouble for the CTBTO. In 2002, the CTBTO cancelled a scheduled course intended to train personnel at nuclear test monitoring centers when slow payment of dues combined with currency problems.

Nothing like taking a bad situation and making it worse.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation has a nice letter on the subject from a past budget battle.