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Defense Department Shifts Threat-Reduction Funds

The U.S. Defense Department is preparing to shift $65 million in fiscal 2012 funds between programs aimed at stemming proliferation of unconventional arms, Inside Defense reported on Thursday.

The Pentagon would move $35 million from the Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination-Russia initiative to the Proliferation Prevention Program to help allied governments establish "self-sustaining, multiagency capabilities" to curb sensitive substances and equipment from being smuggled past border sites, Assistant Defense Secretary Madelyn Creedon said in a letter to Congress.

Meanwhile, $30 million would be moved from the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program to the Global Nuclear Security effort.

Extremists' heightened push to avail themselves of unconventional weapons, parts, substances and know-how "have demonstrated a need to improve the security of the countries sharing borders with WMD or WMD material possessor countries and to improve the ability of these countries to detect and interdict WMD and related materials at their borders and ports of entry," Creedon wrote.

The funding shift "seems appropriate" within the Defense Department's Cooperative Threat Reduction efforts, which for 20 years have primarily sought to secure and eliminate nuclear weapons, delivery systems and other sensitive materials in the former Soviet Union, according to one Capitol Hill insider.

"They're slowly moving through a lot of the Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination agenda -- still work to be done -- and they're trying to concentrate more on smuggling across the borders, which is an appropriate thing to do," the official said. "The transfers all seem OK to me."

The planned funding shift comes at a time when the future of the CTR program in Russia is uncertain given that Moscow recently indicated that it is unwilling to extend the terms of the current agreement that enables the initiative to fuction in that country beyond June 2013.

Congress had previously allowed for $28.1 million in funding for the Proliferation Prevention Program for the budget year that ended on Sept. 30, according to Inside Defense. The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution.

Additional "funds are anticipated for use with new projects in the Caucasus and Southeast Asia," Creedon stated.

"DOD is expected to conclude an agreement with the Georgian Ministry of Interior, coast guard, to launch a cooperative project along the Black Sea to address WMD proliferation prevention issues," she wrote. "In addition, DOD is conducting initial assessments and proposes to begin obligating funds for proliferation prevention activities in new countries in Southeast Asia, consistent with applicable legislation."

Contracts have also been issued for antitrafficking efforts in Ukraine and Armenia.

Funding for the Global Nuclear Security effort would be boosted from the $121.1 million previously set by lawmakers.

"DOD will assist partner nations to achieve all aspects of security for nuclear weapons and nuclear materials and related equipment in storage and in transportation, including physical security systems, transportation security support, inventory management, training, personnel reliability, transportation from less secure to more secure storage or dismantlement locations, and support for centers of excellence for nuclear security," according to Creedon.

Lawmakers do not have to sign off on the budget shifts, said Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Monica Matoush. However, the changes can only be made following a 15-day notification period.

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