Statement to the Thirty-Ninth Session of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission

Vienna International Centre
Vienna, Austria
October 22, 2012

Thank you Madam Chair,

It gives me great pleasure to take the floor during the Thirty-Ninth Session of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission.  We congratulate you on your selection as Preparatory Commission Chair and look forward to working with you as we move forward.  There are challenging issues before us, and we look forward to grappling with them under your capable leadership.

Madam Chair,

Before addressing specific issues related to the agenda, I wish to echo the remarks on the passing of a friend of the CTBT and, in many ways, one of the principal architects of the International Monitoring System (IMS) and the International Data Centre (IDC) – Peter Marshall of the United Kingdom.   His U.S. colleagues always valued his tremendous technical and scientific knowledge and treasured his ready wit.  He was an active and important member of the Group of Scientific Experts who laid the groundwork for much of the Treaty’s verification regime and made it possible to successfully negotiate the Treaty.  He made tremendous contributions to our work here, especially in Working Group B (WGB), as a member of the UK delegation, and after that returned repeatedly to provide his sage advice as an expert reviewer of our work here.  Thank you Peter for all your advice and aid.  We will miss you.

Madam Chair,

A great deal has been said over the last several months about selecting the next Executive Secretary.  As with most electoral campaigns, I am sure that many of us will be relieved that we can now stop talking about it and actually make the decision.    We wish to thank all those who are standing as candidates for the position.  We recognize that each candidacy represents an expression of dedication to this organization by both the candidates themselves and their respective countries of origin, and that pursuing those candidacies has entailed a significant amount of time and effort.  The Executive Secretary’s role is an important one.  The PrepCom and the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) are fortunate in having a strong list of candidates from which to choose; let us choose well.

Madam Chair,

In this session we also have the important task of approving a Programme and Budget for the coming year.  We appreciate the great deal of time and effort that the PTS puts into preparing the drafts put before us.  We know that it is not easy to balance the competing priorities that the Policy Making Organs (PMOs) establish.

We are also well aware of the difficult times we all are facing with regard to budget and financial issues.  Still, we are here because our respective nations have undertaken certain commitments by becoming members of this Preparatory Commission.  Making the CTBT verification regime an operational reality is a task fundamental to our mandate, and one that requires adequate resources.

The United States could have accepted the draft Programme and Budget that was put before us at the beginning of August, which had a slight increase over zero real growth.  We continue to be troubled that the PTS gives too much weight to the view that the budget must be zero real growth, a position continually put forward by some – but certainly not all – members.  In our view, the budget needs to be responsive to, and adequately fund, the priorities that command a consensus and are fundamental to our mandate.  We continue to be disturbed that the revised budget is actually slightly less than zero real growth, as has been the case over the past few years.  Gradually starving this organization is not a responsible approach; it will certainly not help ensure that its mandate is fulfilled.  And here I would particularly caution those delegations who call for further “priorities” and “efficiencies” to think carefully about what further budget cuts under that rubric will actually mean – in practical terms – to this organization and its ability to function effectively as intended.

I am concerned that the first question many delegations seem to ask is, “What’s the bottom line?”  A better formulation might be, “Is this the most cost-effective way to meet our mandate?”  We recognize that the needs of the PTS and how they are important in meeting priorities established by the PMOs are not always clearly articulated.  On the other hand, some delegations seem to remain fixated on the bottom-line number and don’t appear to adequately focus on these technical needs, even when they are presented in detail.  Such a focus is “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

The United States remains concerned that this body does not have a clear focus on the resources necessary to carry out its mandate.  We believe that the budget devotes too little money to planning for lifecycle management, not only for IMS facilities, but also the IDC and the On-Site Inspection (OSI) infrastructure and equipment.  This is critical to protecting the investments we have already made in the verification regime.  And here I’m bound to note that a number of those who favor ZRG budgets are the same who argue vehemently that we must also protect investments made to date.  Building a station takes an appreciable amount of time, even when there is complete agreement with the host nation and funds are available.  Further, it takes time to certify stations and integrate them into the IDC processing stream.  We have asked before that the PTS conduct an assessment of the tasks that must yet be completed to provide the first Conference of States Parties an operational IMS, IDC, and OSI capability.  We need this kind of assessment so we can make realistic and cost-effective plans.  Focusing on zero real growth and lamenting that some Annex 2 states have not yet ratified does nothing to improve the effectiveness of this organization.  An adequately funded and demonstrably effective verification regime will hasten the Treaty’s entry into force by demonstrating the capability to detect and deter violations.

Having said all that, the United States would not wish to see this organization’s operability in 2013 suffer for want of an approved budget. And although resources will certainly be tight within the constraints of the currently proposed 2013 Programme and Budget, we think it will allow some progress toward our mandate.  Therefore, despite our reservations, the United States is prepared to accept the currently proposed draft Programme and Budget.

Madam Chair,

I call your attention to another perennial problem.  This self-inflicted wound stems from the insistence of some delegations that there be only two meetings of Working Group B each calendar year.  In an effort to find sufficient meeting time to carry out our work, we now have two marathon, three-week-long meetings per year.  As has been the case in previous years, we are again finding it difficult to schedule such lengthy meetings for 2013.  Three weeks is a large block of time, and it is well-nigh impossible to find space in the calendar that doesn’t overlap with other meetings or impinge on someone’s national holiday.

I would point out that U.S. participants in the PrepCom, Working Group B, OSI workshops and other meetings have regularly missed holidays each year to attend these meetings and participate in this organization’s important work.  We have not taken the floor to insist that other participants in this body accommodate our holiday schedule.  PrepCom meetings and OSI workshops have even fallen on Thanksgiving – a major U.S. national holiday – and the local U.S. delegation and Washington-based experts have sacrificed time off at home with their families to contribute to our work here.  We know that we are not alone in this and that other States’ delegations have made similar sacrifices without finding the need to speak about the matter from the floor.

As a result, we have before us a schedule that proposes dates for the first Working Group B meeting in 2013 that encompass two public holidays here in Vienna – holidays on which the body will not be able to meet.  Thus two valuable work days will potentially be lost, and delegations that send experts from capitals will be forced to either pay for their experts to be idle for those days or incur the expense and inconvenience of having them travel back and forth to Vienna during the span of the meeting.  The United States understands that the funds for bringing experts from developing countries to technical meetings such as WGB are difficult to come by, and we do not believe it wise to further dissipate them by paying for experts to be idle.  Beyond this simple financial consideration, WGB has many tasks before it and can ill afford the loss of two full meeting days.  As we saw during the most recent session of WGB, even a single lost workday was sorely missed and complicated that body’s work.

We acknowledge the concern that the proposed alternative meeting dates in January for WGB leave the PTS much less time to prepare needed materials for the session.  However, in our view, that would still be preferable to losing two full days of meetings to holidays.  It would also be preferable to holding the WGB in March/April and leaving much less time for the PTS to prepare the 2014 draft Programme and Budget, which must be presented to WGA in May.

We hope that we can reach a sensible solution to this issue that preserves meeting time and does not waste participants’ time and money.

Madam Chair,

In closing, the United States looks forward to addressing these important issues.  We are confident that under your able leadership, we will be able to make progress in reaching solutions that are equitable and advance the agenda of developing the CTBT verification regime.

Thank you Madam Chair.