CTBTO Funding Included in State FY 2018 Budget Request

By Daryl G. Kimball

The Trump administration's State Department budget request for fiscal year 2018 includes full funding for the United States assessed contribution to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), which operates the global monitoring system to detect and deter nuclear explosions and verify compliance with the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT):

"Contributions to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s Preparatory Commission (PrepCom) ($31.0 million): PrepCom assistance helps to fund the fielding, operation, and maintenance of the state-of-the-art International Monitoring System (IMS), a global network of 321 seismic, hydroacoustic, infrasound, and radionuclide sensing stations designed and optimized to detect nuclear explosions worldwide. The U.S. receives the data the IMS provides, which is an important supplement to U.S. National Technical Means to monitor for nuclear explosions (a mission carried out by the U.S. Air Force). A reduction in IMS capability could deprive the U.S. of an irreplaceable source of nuclear explosion monitoring data. [emphasis added] This amount includes funding for projects to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the Treaty’s verification regime, and also funds a tax reimbursement agreement that facilitates the hiring of Americans by the PrepCom.” (pg. 338)

The inclusion of the funding for the CTBTO is all the more remarkable given that the Trump administration's State Department budget proposes severe cuts to the U.S. contributions to international organizations, which covers the U.S. assessed contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the CTBTO.

Under this proposed budget, the interational organizations budget would take a huge hit, from $1,446 million in fiscal year 2016 to $996 million proposed for fiscal year 2018. Page 181 of the State Department budget document punts in proposing how to allocate these cuts:

“In order to implement the necessary reductions, the Department is examining options to: (a) reduce the levels of international organizations’ budgets, (b) reduce U.S. assessment rates, and/or (c) possibly not pay U.S. assessments in full. …Therefore, in order to secure U.S. interests and ensure that limited funding goes to international organizations that most directly promote U.S. interests, the Department and interagency stakeholders will conduct a strategic review of organizations where reductions can be achieved while maintaining U.S. national interests.”

However, according to pages 361-364 of the budget document, the CTBTO allocation and IAEA voluntary contribution were not slashed.

The CTBTO Preparatory Commission is slated to get $31 million, against $33 million in fiscal year 2016, and the State Department IAEA voluntary contribution is $91.9 million, against $88 million in fiscal year 2016.

The Trump administration’s decision to support funding for the CTBTO likely reflects the recognition by the White House and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the de facto global norm against nuclear testing established by the CTBT serves U.S. interests and that the international test monitoring system is essential to help detect and deter violations.

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System is operating constantly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, even though the CTBT has not yet entered into force. Entry into force requires ratification by the United States and 7 other states (India, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Iran, Egypt, Israel).