Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), George V. Voinovich (R-OH), and Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) sent a letter today requesting that the Department of State provide an update on its actions and future plans to address proliferation risks with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Technical Cooperation (TC) Program. A March 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identified these risks, which include program funding going to U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism including Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Sudan; limited information sharing concerning proposed TC projects; and a lack of formal guidance and accountability in the TC fellows program.
The IAEA created the TC program to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including support for nuclear safety, the development of nuclear power, and applications for agriculture and healthcare. The United States provides approximately 25 percent of the TC program’s annual budget, or about $20 million per year.
“The State Department must ensure that U.S. funding is not being used in a way that increases nuclear proliferation risks,” Akaka said. “Senators Voinovich and Carper have joined me to ask the Department to provide its plans to address the most pressing proliferation risks identified in GAO’s report. I am hopeful that the State Department can address these risks and further its cooperative working relationship with the IAEA.”
Senator Akaka is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which has oversight responsibility over governmentwide management issues and U.S. relationships with international organizations. Senator Voinovich is the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member.
Senator Carper is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
GAO’s report on IAEA’s TC Program can be found at:
Senator Akaka, Voinovich, and Carper’s letter to Secretary Clinton appears below:
June 3, 2009
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently conducted a review of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Technical Cooperation (TC) Program. Its final report on this matter is entitled Nuclear Nonproliferation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Address Proliferation and Management Challenges in IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Program (GAO-09-275).
GAO’s findings on the TC Program suggest that this program may pose proliferation risks. For instance, GAO found that neither the Department nor IAEA prohibit TC Program assistance to countries that the U.S. has designated as state sponsors of terrorism. These countries, as you are aware, include Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba.
In its written response to GAO’s report, dated February 17, 2009, the Department indicated its general willingness to address the issues GAO identified. To gain a broader understanding of the Department’s plans to help minimize the proliferation risks associated with the TC Program, we ask that you provide us additional information on the following items:
1. The status of the interagency process to review TC project proposals, including the organizations involved; the extent of the participation of the rest of the Intelligence Community; and actions taken or planned by the Department to make the interagency group more effective;
2. GAO reported that the Department was largely unable to provide records documenting actions that it took to address proliferation concerns in TC proposals. Please provide information regarding any actions the Department is taking to improve documentation of concerns;
3. The Department’s plans and timeline to facilitate greater and more timely information sharing on TC project proposals with IAEA so that proliferation risks can be identified and addressed early in the development cycle;
4. GAO reported that the staffing within State’s Office of Multilateral Nuclear and Security Affairs that handles IAEA and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) issues may be limiting its ability to effectively monitor TC Program developments. Please provide the Department’s plans and timeline to ensure that the Office has sufficient staffing to monitor and gauge proliferation risks;
5. GAO reported that the Department has not developed formal guidance that identifies countries that would not be eligible to send TC fellows to the United States for nuclear studies. Please provide the Department’s plans and timeline to develop such formal guidance;
6. The Department’s plans and timeline to promote a systematic process for obtaining, retaining, and updating information on prior TC project fellows; and
7. Any additional comments you may want to add regarding the Department’s response to GAO’s recommendation to withhold a proportionate share of the U.S. contribution to the TC Fund (TCF) for U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism. Please include any recommendations regarding alternative methods for meeting our obligations to the TCF while ensuring that U.S. funding is not provided to state sponsors of terrorism.