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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 36, April 1999

Absorption of ACDA Into State Department

'On-the-record briefing, Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs on Integration of ACDA and Department of State,' US Department of State, Office of the Spokesman, 31 March 1999

"Something unusual is going to happen at midnight tonight; and that is that a federal agency will disappear. The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency will go out of existence after a very productive 38 years, including such arms control innovations and achievements as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the decision to make it permanent, strengthen nuclear safeguards and other non-proliferation tools, a partial test ban and then a permanent Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Convention, SALT [Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty], START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty], INF [Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty], a whole range of confidence-building and transparency measures all over the world.

ACDA also has implemented and verified those agreements, where the security benefits agreed to on paper are actually realized in weapons coming down or being averted. ACDA has a tradition and a responsibility historically for conveying/broadcasting inconvenient truth in its compliance reports to the Congress and other non-proliferation reporting. The agency has spawned several generations of arms control professionals, who are now found not only in ACDA but in the State Department, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community and elsewhere in the government, as well as in the NGO community.

It has a remarkable core of talent that will be coming into the State Department, including negotiators, substantive and technical experts, a great deal of historical knowledge about all the treaties I referred to, legal skills, public and congressional affairs and a variety of others.

An independent agency for arms control in 1961 and in 1995, when we fought this issue in the early '90s, was a good idea. Yet the merger is happening by consent. Why? Essentially because Secretary Albright strongly supports this cause, and so supported a merger arrangement that preserves the key values of this organization.

A number of studies going back to the late '80s, early '90s have concluded that the primary reason for an independent Arms Control and Disarmament Agency has been independent advocacy. The perspectives that we had to offer were so important that they shouldn't be muffled or compromised down within a single department, but rather should be brought to the table at the highest levels.

The Secretary has agreed and the President has approved and the legislation establishes the principle that the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, under the merged structure, will also be a senior advisor to the President and the Secretary of State on arms control and non-proliferation; and therefore, will continue to be present at these meetings, advocating, where appropriate, an independent point of view that may disagree with that of the Secretary. The Under Secretary will also be able to communicate directly with the President through the Secretary when necessary.

The compliance review function has been attached to the Under Secretary's office in order to preserve the integrity of its reporting. Leadership on non-proliferation comes back to the State Department from the NSC [National Security Council], and the new bureaus will also have an enhanced role in leading the interagency process on arms control. We're also consolidating arms control functions that have grown up elsewhere in other bureaus in the State Department into the new bureau structure. There will be a new associate legal advisor and a new assistant legal advisor for arms control.

The plan, as an interesting and uncomfortable side bar is not yet final. The plan for integration was submitted to the Congress last December, where it was to lay over 90 days before it becomes final. There are likely to be some changes in the overall plan that includes integration of USIA and some elements of the Agency for International Development. But as it stands now - and I expect this will continue - we'll have three new bureaus in the Department of State replacing the four bureaus of ACDA and one bureau in State previously - a non-proliferation bureau, an arms control bureau and a political/military affairs bureau that will do traditional security-related matters.

Finally, just let me note what I think has been an exceptional performance by ACDA's professionals during the course of this integration, negotiation and process to get ready for it. There was, as you would expect in any organization, considerable unhappiness at the conclusion that ACDA would be merged into the State Department. At the same time, there has been unqualified support for the efforts to make it work in the most effective possible way. I think that's due to the commitment to the mission of this agency that ACDA's professionals and all of its personnel maintain and to their professionalism as good public servants."

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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