Preparatory Commission for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization

Statement by the United States of America
to the Fortieth Session of CTBTO Working Group B

Ambassador Joseph E. Macmanus

Permanent Representative to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization

Vienna, Austria
Monday, March 18, 2013

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States would like to express our best wishes to Working Group B (WGB) Chairman Hein Haak for a speedy recovery to good health.  We thank the Friends of the Chair, Dr. Mykkeltveit and Dr. McCormack, for chairing this WGB session in Dr. Haakís absence.  We look forward to a productive session under your able leadership and that of the Task Leaders.  The reduced meeting time during this WGB means we will all have to work a little bit harder and with greater efficiency to responsibly address the very full agenda before us.  While we understand the combination of factors that led to the schedule for this WGB, we sincerely hope to avoid this problem in the future.

In that same vein, we regret that Executive Secretary Toth is not present to hear the statements by regional groups and States Signatories.  Our understanding is that he is participating in another CTBTO event at this time.  It would seem to us that such scheduling conflicts should be avoided.

Mr. Chairman,

Last month was a very active one.  On February 15, a meteor broke up in the skies over the Russian Federation, detonating in the atmosphere with great force.  While there was much damage and many injuries, there was fortunately no loss of life.  The infrasound network of the International Monitoring System (IMS), installed and operated for the purpose of nuclear explosion monitoring, provided valuable data to the civil and scientific community about the nature of the meteor and the bolide.

Earlier that week, on February 12, seismometers across the globe, including in the IMS, registered an event in North Korea that seismologists, including at the International Data Centre (IDC), quickly identified as having the characteristics of a manmade event.  Soon after, IMS infrasound stations detected signals that could be associated with the location of the seismic event.  And shortly after that, North Korea announced that it had conducted another underground nuclear test, underscoring that work remains to be done in the effort to end nuclear explosive testing once and for all.  The United States joins the international community in condemning the provocative actions of North Korea and calls for North Korea to abide by its commitments under the Joint Statement of September 19, 2005, and its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2094, adopted unanimously on March 7.

The United States commends the PTS for its excellent work in reacting to this event, both by providing timely data and products through the IDC, and by offering highly informative technical briefings to States Signatories.  We also commend the PTS technical divisions for refraining from definitive judgments about the nature of a specific event.  As stipulated by the Treaty, those judgments remain the purview of States Signatories, who may use IMS data, IDC products, and data from whatever other sources they wish.

Unfortunately, not all observers of the February 12 event were responsible.  Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman once said, “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.”  That statement is an exhortation for scientists to guard against expectation bias – the tendency to believe, certify and publish data that agree with the expected outcome and to discount data that do not agree.

When dealing with an event, we should remember that this is not a race to publish first.  This is really a matter of the credibility of the entire CTBT enterprise, which rests squarely on making careful, accurate assertions.  A premature or erroneous claim based on CTBTO data can badly damage the credibility of the Organization itself.  We therefore encourage peer review among the scientists we have entrusted with the data and products made available through the Secure Signatory Accounts.  All of us – the PTS, representatives of States Signatories and scientific experts – eed to take great care with the public pronouncements we make when events like this occur.  We must be careful to avoid fooling ourselves, be forthright with ourselves about what we really know, and stick to that in what we say.

Mr. Chairman,

We look forward to a discussion of progress made in 2012 in completing the On-Site Inspection (OSI) Action Plan, the activities planned for 2013, and the proposals for 2014.  Our delegation is particularly eager to resume work on the Draft Text of the OSI Operational Manual so we can achieve closure on the seemingly unending deliberations on this matter.

We are, however, disappointed that so few sessions of this WGB are allocated to the OSI Major Program in comparison with those devoted to the OSI Operational Manual.  We call upon the respective Task Leaders to consider whether adjustments can be made in the schedule.

And here we would reiterate that successful conduct of the Integrated Field Exercise in 2014 (IFE14) is not the responsibility of the PTS alone.  The success or failure of IFE14 will reflect the combined efforts of the PTS, WGB, and individual States Signatories in discharging their respective responsibilities.  Each must devote the effort and resources necessary to carry out this important activity that we have all decided to undertake.  A distinguished member of another delegation observed during the previous WGB session that those delegations that were the most vocal advocates for the conduct of IFE14 bear the greatest responsibility for its success.  It is the view of the United States that once the PrepCom decided to conduct the IFE, all delegations assumed an equal responsibility to ensure its success.  The greatest failure would be not to conduct the IFE at all because we, the States Signatories, did not provide the equipment, people, policy guidance or other resources necessary to allow for success.

Mr. Chairman,

Some time ago, WGB recognized the need for focused discussions between State Signatory experts and PTS staff on highly technical issues.  With the support of States Signatories and the WGB Chair, time is now allocated on the WGB schedule for those technical discussions.  We welcome the expertsí input, conclusions, and recommendations to assist this organization in completing an effective verification regime ready at entry into force of the Treaty.  In particular, we hope that during this and subsequent sessions of WGB, the Radionuclide Experts Group, together with PTS staff, will fully engage on OSI technical issues.

Mr. Chairman,

The reports on intersessional work remind us that the ability of the Policy Making Organs (PMOs) to carry out their work in formal meetings depends heavily on their efforts between those meetings.  We look forward to hearing more detail about this important intersessional work, especially about progress on the public key infrastructure, information security policy, and data authentication issues with which the IDC is wrestling.  The attention that has been focused on IMS data and IDC products throughout the busy month of February highlights the importance of ensuring the integrity and availability of those data and products.

Mr. Chairman,

In view of the compressed schedule of this WGB session, I will save most of our remarks on the issue of the program of work and budget for our statement during the joint meeting of WGA and WGB on April 2.  For now, I wish to make two quick points.

First, the United States remains steadfast in its position that the PrepCom should have a program-driven budget aimed at carrying out the mandate of the PrepCom.  To better facilitate constructive discussion about program and budget priorities, we would suggest that the PTS provide more detailed budget information at an earlier juncture in the annual budget formulation process.

Second, in order for the PMOs to carry out their responsibilities for setting priorities and helping the PTS identify responsible efficiencies and savings, we need good information.  The new version of the Medium Term Plan that the PTS is preparing will be an important resource.  As we have suggested in the past, a thorough review of all the tasks needing completion and the time and budgetary resources needed to complete our mandate would also be invaluable for the PMOs to make informed decisions on budgeting and priorities.  The companion piece being prepared by the Chairs of WGA and WGB, setting out their visions for the activities of those bodies, is another important guidepost, and we look forward to seeing it.

In closing, in recognition of this being the 40th WGB session, I want to thank the experts on the U.S. delegation and those from other countries who have been part of this endeavor from the beginning.  A number of experts from my delegation – and I suspect from others as well – have attended all or most of the 40 WGB sessions to date.  That record of attendance reflects not just their extraordinary professionalism and individual commitment, but also the importance their governments place on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the goal of ending nuclear explosive tests.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.