- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The State Department plans to merge its arms control and nonproliferation bureaus, having concluded that much of their work overlaps and resources are being wasted, officials said yesterday.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell signed off on the recommendation — which was made in September by the department’s inspector general — after his office completed a routine evaluation of the four divisions involved in international security policy.

The other two bureaus — dealing with political-military affairs and with verification and compliance — will remain separate, officials said.

“The report of the inspector general found that we still have structures created for Cold War challenges,” a State Department official said. “We need to reduce overlap by retooling and improving efficiency.”

He pointed out that many issues fall within the purview of more than one office in the department, such as chemical weapons or missile technology.

He rejected suggestions by some critics that the merger reflects a lack of interest in arms control and the international laws that regulate it.

“That is a distortion of the truth,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s true that we are not judging our success by the number of new treaties we sign, but we are very concerned about countries abiding by existing agreements, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, complained that the merger “represents a further diminishing of the importance of U.S. arms-control policy within the larger federal bureaucracy.”

He said the first major step in that direction was the Clinton administration’s 1999 decision to fold the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency into the State Department.

The agency’s head used to have greater authority and more direct access to the president than the holder of the new post, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, Mr. Kimball said.

He added that the merger “may not necessarily be a bad thing,” saying that depends on whether “the combined bureau can cover all the issues and if the number of people working on those issues will be reduced.”

Several employees of the arms control and nonproliferation bureaus expressed concerns about their jobs, but officials involved in the merger decision said there are enough positions in the department for everyone.

“The reason for the merger is not to cut budgets or personnel,” a second department official said. “That’s not our problem.”

Even if the combined bureau cannot keep all employees of the two bureaus, the first official said, they will be assigned to other jobs.

“There are many offices elsewhere in the State Department that are hurting for people,” he said.

Officials said there was agreement on the merger among Mr. Powell’s top team — his deputy, Richard L. Armitage; the undersecretary for management, Grant Green; and the undersecretary for arms control and international security, John Bolton.

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