Defense Threat Reduction AgencyDefense Threat Reduction Agency

Nunn-Lugar Global Cooperation Initiative

Photo Caption: Sen. Richard Lugar and now-President Barack Obama tour a Russian site where WMD are being destroyed in 2005. (DTRA photo)

quoteSome may say that we cannot forge cooperative non-proliferation programs with the most worrisome nations. But evidence proves that such pessimism is unwarranted. The experience of the Nunn-Lugar program has demonstrated that the threat of weapons of mass destruction can lead to extraordinary outcomes based on mutual interest. No one would have predicted in the 1980s that Americans and Russians would be working together to collect dangerous weapons materials around the world.quote [ From U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar’s speech on the Future of US-Russian Cooperation on Arms Control delivered at the Carnegie Moscow Center, August 28, 2007 ]

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Cold War that lasted half a century was finally over – but half a century’s worth of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons still existed. Instead of one country with centralized control, the United States was now looking at several independent countries with weapons of mass destruction – each with different levels of security.

To meet this threat, Sen. Richard Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn authored the Nunn-Lugar Act in 1991, establishing the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. The program sought to help the states of the former Soviet Union safeguard and dismantle its enormous stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, related materials, and delivery systems. DTRA executes the program for the Department of Defense and works in coordination with partner governments and other U.S. government agencies who administer related projects.

Today we deal with adversaries who lack the foot print of weapons-producing laboratories but who carry delivery systems in their backpacks. The more than 15-year record of accomplishment of the Nunn-Lugar program has fostered ongoing discussion among policymakers on ways to strengthen and expand cooperative threat reduction programs to meet the nation’s complex security challenges.

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences Congressionally-mandated report “Global Security Engagement: A New Model for Cooperative Threat Reduction,” recommended an expanded Nunn-Lugar model of global security engagement to counter the 21st century terrorist threat.

The Nunn Lugar Global Cooperation Initiative calls for a set of programs and projects undertaken by the U.S. government, as part of a cooperative network that includes a wide range of countries, international organizations, and non-government partners, to prevent, reduce mitigate and eliminate common threats to U.S. national security and global stability.

To respond to increasing biological threats – ranging from chronic diseases to the risk of targeted attacks such as an anthrax scare – the initiative gives high priority to bioengagement and biosurveillance global challenges.

Regional and bilateral engagement strategies include:

  • Improvements to partner country capabilities in biosafety and biosecurity, and to detect, diagnose and report WMD-significant disease outbreaks;
  • Support for U.S. government efforts to secure vulnerable fissile material worldwide by the end of 2012;
  • Cooperation in surveillance, detection and interdiction technology projects to stop global WMD trafficking;
  • Collaborate in fundamental research with partner country scientists and institutions.