U.S. may not reach 2013 deadline for securing nuclear materials

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A nuclear nonproliferation initiative set by President Obama in 2009 is far behind its goal of securing vulnerable nuclear material by 2013.

The Government Accountability Office report is set against the backdrop of the Senate debate on New START, a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia that would resume nuclear arsenal inspections and limit each nation to 1,550 warheads.

The GAO report found hurdles for meeting the original deadline through three National Nuclear Security Administration programs. The report found that the interagency strategy, including the National Security Council and Department of Energy, lacks estimated costs, timeframe, and scope of the initiative.

The National Security Council said developing an integrated, cross—agency plan including those details could take years. The National Nuclear Security Administration estimates an additional $700 million would need to be allotted to its program budget to accelerate activities necessary to reach the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline.

The success of current nonproliferation programs is murky because it depends on a high level of commitment from Russian leadership and cooperation with the United States. Russia maintains that its own nuclear materials are secure and some officials questioned the need for continued U.S. assistance. Russian officials were reluctant to provide details about its nuclear security budget, hindering estimates about how much assistance Russia will need to actually secure its facilities, the GAO found.

“The initiative’s goal seems unrealistic in light of the formidable challenges to improving security of nuclear stockpiles worldwide, especially the reluctance of key countries such as Russia to acknowledge weaknesses in their nuclear security systems,” the report concluded.

FAST FACT: The National Nuclear Security Administration encompasses over 100 countries and spent over $2 billion in nonproliferation programs in 2009.

Following are other new watchdog reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG), and other government entities.

NATIONAL SECURITY

  • The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center granted 27 contracts that lacked contract terms, specifications, or price between 2004 and 2009. An audit reveals that in 26 of the contracts, officials did not comply with Department of Defense statutory requirements for managing contracts. (Department of Defense Inspector General)

HEALTH

  • The Irish pharmaceutical company Elan will pay more than $203.5 million to resolve a criminal and civil liability suit over illegal promotion of its epilepsy drug Zonegran. Drug maker Eisai, which purchased the drug from Elan, already paid $11 million to resolve a civil suit for off-label marketing of Zonegran. (Department of Justice)

MISC.

  • Development of parallel computing, in which multiple processors perform calculations simultaneously, is essential for the United States to continue advances in information technology that drives much of the economy. (National Research Council).

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