CTBTO Working Group A

Statement By The United States Of America To The Forty-Fifth Meeting Of Working Group A

Excellencies, Dr. Zerbo, distinguished colleagues,

I am pleased to take the floor on behalf of the United States of America for the forty-fifth session of Working Group A (WGA).  We welcome you, Ambassador Azeez as Chairman for your first formal session of WGA, and we look forward to working under your able leadership during this session and those to follow.

Mr. Chairman,

My delegation read the initial draft of the 2015 Programme and Budget proposal closely and we applaud its alignment with the strategic goals as laid out in the Provisional Technical Secretariat’s (PTS) Midterm Strategy (MTS) for 2014-2017.  We largely concur with the streamlined goals laid out in this strategy of sustaining a cost-effective and financially viable verification regime and further developing on-site inspection operational capabilities.  My delegation also appreciates the challenges of accomplishing these goals in a continuing environment of global financial austerity.

However, now that we have a draft budget blueprint for this mid-term vision, my delegation is concerned that we may be giving in to artificial budgetary limits for this organization at the expense of the required further build-out of the CTBTO verification network, and eventually at the expense of sustainment of the verification system itself.  While the MTS places an emphasis on further advancement of the International Monitoring System (IMS) noble gas monitoring network, the MTS also cautions that installation and certification of other IMS stations will continue only for stations started in 2013.  According to the MTS, the establishment of further IMS stations can only proceed during this four-year period “within available resources.”  This gives a nod to the constraints of an assumed zero real growth (ZRG) budget, a constraint that the policy making organs have never agreed to impose on this organization.  While we may be able to borrow from the future for a bit with artificial budget limits, the United States is concerned that continued adherence to these limits will inhibit completion of the build-out of the network that is required to achieve the intended operational capability of the verification system.

The draft budget also warns States Signatories that sustainment of the system may also be in jeopardy if we accept ZRG as the norm.  It notes that the PTS has tried to offset increasing Post-Certification Activities (PCA) costs through savings, efficiency gains, and intra-program budget reallocations to the extent possible.  Such PCA cost increases are to be expected as the network grows and through inflationary pressure, and indeed the PrepCom adopted provisions to allow for inflation.

Additionally, the United States has noticed other chronic issues—such as staffing shortages—which may not impact the core mission immediately, but will inevitably do so over the long-term if arbitrary budget limits are sustained.  We have sometimes heard mention of the notion of a “staffing cap,” yet we find no evidence that there is any formal overall cap on staffing agreed to by the policy-making organs, and we believe the PTS should be allowed to staff itself at whatever level it requires within its budget.  The Programme and Budget document used to highlight a chronic 20 percent staffing gap in the face of an ever-increasing workload.  This year, that passage has disappeared, but we feel this information bears repeating, unless it is no longer true.

Mr. Chairman,

The United States continues to advocate for budgets driven by operational requirements and for budgets capable of fulfilling the mandate of the PrepCom, vice budgets that adhere to arbitrary funding limits with an arbitrarily reduced program to fit those limits.  We should remember that this remains an organization established under a mandate that requires it to build up an operational capability; it is not an organization continuing a steady-state operating program.  As a result, the PTS needs sufficient funding to further establish the verification regime, and to improve prospects for entry into force of the Treaty.  To date, States Signatories have made a billion-dollar investment in this important capability with the critical objective of deterring and detecting nuclear explosions.  We all should ensure that we are not only protecting this investment of our respective taxpayers’ money, but we should also remain committed to fulfilling the important mandate of the Treaty.

In reviewing the initial draft Programme and Budget, my delegation also noticed a departure from previous budget documents that listed unfunded items.  In the spirit of transparency and of having a more complete picture of the tradeoffs inherent in our budget decisions, my delegation would ask that this information be provided as soon as possible to States Signatories for their consideration and not wait until the final draft 2015 Programme and Budget document is presented.  While some delegations may be more concerned with bottom lines than technical tradeoffs, the United States considers this to be useful information as we consider the implications and potential losses of capability under this budget and under continuing draft budgets that may also strive for zero real growth.

Mr. Chairman,

As you may recall from our statement during the joint meeting of Working Groups A and B, my delegation believes there are other topics for WGA to fruitfully explore, including devising a multi-year budget and long-term project financing, improving the budgeting process, conforming the scale of assessments to that of other UN-related bodies, and improving and streamlining the procurement and contracting processes.  These are suggestions my delegation has made many times before to achieve responsible cost effectiveness and efficiency, both for the sake of the PTS and of the States Signatories.  We recognize that these are not easy tasks, and that they will require significant efforts by WGA and State Signatories alike.  On many of these issues, WGA could convene informal sessions with a view toward generating actual proposals for the PrepCom to consider.  We applaud your willingness to do this.  We may also need to consider developing a new WGA Program of Work to fulfill these tasks in a comprehensive manner.

Mr. Chairman,

In closing, the United States would like to once again welcome you to the dais and offer our full support for a productive session of Working Group A.  There are many important issues to address in this agenda, and my delegation stands ready to work with you to ensure we fulfill the important mandate of this Organization.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.