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Nuclear security: US finding jobs for former Soviet weapons scientists

By Jim Kouri
web posted January 28, 2008

To address concerns about unemployed or underemployed Soviet-era weapons scientists in Russia and other former Soviet Bloc nations, the US Department of Energy established the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention or IPP program in 1994. The general idea was to engage former Soviet weapons scientists in nonmilitary work in the short term and create private sector jobs for these scientists in the long term.

To address this issue, the US Congress requested that analysts from the Government Accountability Office analyze DOE policies, plans, and budgets. Analysts also interviewed key program officials and representatives from 22 Russian and Ukrainian institutes.

According to the GAO's initial report, the DOE has overstated accomplishments for the 2 critical measures it uses to assess the IPP program's progress and performance — the number of scientists receiving DOE support and the number of long-term, private sector jobs created.

First, although DOE claims to have engaged over 16,770 scientists in Russia and other countries, this total includes both scientists with and without weapons-related experience.

The GAO's analysis of 97 IPP projects involving about 6,450 scientists showed that more than half did not claim to possess any weapons-related experience. In addition, officials from 10 Russian and Ukrainian institutes told GAO analysts that the IPP program helps them attract, recruit, and retain younger scientists who might otherwise emigrate to the United States or other western countries and contributes to the continued operation of their facilities.

This is contrary to the original intent of the program, which was to reduce the proliferation risk posed by Soviet-era weapons scientists.

Second, although DOE asserts that the IPP program helped create 2,790 long-term, private sector jobs for former weapons scientists, the credibility of this number is uncertain because DOE relies on "good-faith" reporting from US industry partners and foreign institutes on the number of jobs created and does not independently verify the number of jobs reported to have been created.

DOE has not developed an exit strategy for the IPP program, even though officials from the Russian government, Russian and Ukrainian institutes, and US companies raised questions about the continuing need for the program. Importantly, a senior Russian Atomic Energy Agency official told the GAO that the IPP program is no longer relevant because Russia's economy is strong and its scientists no longer pose a proliferation risk.

DOE has not developed criteria to determine when scientists, institutes, or countries should "graduate" from the program.

In contrast, the US Department of State, which supports a similar program to assist Soviet-era weapons scientists, has assessed participating institutes and developed a strategy to graduate certain institutes from its program. Instead of finding ways to phase out the IPP program, DOE has recently expanded the program to include new countries and areas.

For example, in 2004 the DOE began providing assistance to scientists in Iraq and Libya. In addition, the IPP program is working with DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy to develop projects that support the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership — a DOE-led international effort to expand the use of civilian nuclear power.

In every fiscal year since 1998, DOE carried over unspent funds in excess of the amount that the Congress provided for the program.

For example, as of September 2007, DOE carried over about $30 million in unspent funds –$2 million more than the $28 million that the Congress had appropriated for the IPP program in fiscal year 2007. Two main factors have contributed to this recurring problem — lengthy review and approval processes for paying former Soviet weapons scientists and delays in implementing some IPP projects. ESR

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a staff writer for the New Media Alliance. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The mNarc Officer and others. He's a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He's also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri's own website is located at http://jimkouri.us.






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