What is ACDA?

ACDA is the only federal agency whose sole focus is arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. The Agency strengthens national security by conducting and supporting arms control negotiations. It also ensures that existing arms control agreements and commitments are kept, serving as a watchdog for arms control verification and compliance. The Director of ACDA serves as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Secretary of State on these critical issues.

What is ACDA's mission?

ACDA's mission is threat reduction. The Agency strengthens the national security of the United States by formulating, advocating, negotiating, implementing and verifying sound arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament policies, strategies, and agreements. ACDA thus ensures that arms control is fully integrated into the development and conduct of U.S. national security policy.

Why do we need ACDA?

Because arms control is vital to our national security. For over 30 years, every Democratic and Republican administration has recognized that if the United States wants to pursue arms control, a specialized, unconflicted agency is the way to do it. This is even more true in the post-Cold War period, when the potential benefits of arms control are greater than ever before -- as is the danger that arms control and nonproliferation imperatives could be overlooked in our ordinary diplomacy.

Is arms control a relic of the Cold War?

Absolutely not. Strategic arms control with what used to be the Soviet Union is now a small fraction of what we do and of America's national security and arms control requirements. The President and a bipartisan Congress revitalized ACDA in 1994, not to preserve an outdated status quo, but in order to meet the arms control and nonproliferation challenges of the post-Cold War era. In announcing the decision to strengthen ACDA, President Clinton said, "The work of combatting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is difficult and unending, but ... it must be done." The acts and ambitions of rogue states such as North Korea, Libya, Iraq and Iran underscore that ACDA's work is more essential than ever.

Why is this such a critical time for arms control?

We have an immense arms control agenda which will fundamentally shape the nation's security for years to come. During his address to the United Nations General Assembly in President Clinton outlined the six top arms control priorities for the United States as:

This is the year for the U.S. to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention and begin realizing its great benefits. Some 20 countries -- many hostile to us -- have chemical weapons programs; another 15 have the capability and motivation. The CWC gives nations the option of either complying with a legally binding regime, or facing global isolation and real sanctions.

Two years ago, we saw in Tokyo's subway the first use of weapons of mass destruction not by a government but by terrorists, against an urban civilian population. Unless we take every reasonable step to ban and control them, and then enforce these agreements, we have every reason to believe the Tokyo experience, or far worse, could be repeated elsewhere. The work of this small agency is not the only barrier to these dangers, but it is a profoundly important and cost-effective one -- including our work to bring the Chemical Weapons Convention and its implementing law into force, to add teeth to the Biological Weapons Convention, and to impede the movement of materials useful for weapons of mass destruction and missiles around the world.

In May 1995, the fate of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was determined. ACDA was asked to lead the U.S. effort to extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT -- the world's primary legal barrier against the spread of nuclear weapons. Many saw no hope for the U.S. goal of a majority vote for a permanent treaty. In the end our view prevailed without dissent. This is a decisive year for strategic arms control, as we implement the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). We led the push for ratification of START II in the United States. START II still has to be ratified in Russia, and then implemented, adding another task. Meanwhile, our arms control agenda with Russia has broadened to include controls over surplus Russian nuclear expertise and materials that could help rogue states or terrorists make a bomb. We must also press Russia to fulfill its obligations on chemical and biological arms.

These important U.S.-Russia issues are being overshadowed by the danger of proliferation to rogue regimes and terrorists around the world. As many as 40 countries now would have the technical and material ability to develop nuclear weapons, if they decided to do so. The treaties mentioned underscore ACDA's role as the United States implementation and verification agent for arms control, and as the Agency that reports to Congress on treaty compliance - roles that demand tough judgments unclouded by diplomatic relations or other considerations.

Can the government save money by abolishing ACDA?

No -- such a move would cost far more than it could ever save. ACDA is a small agency of about 250 people with a lean budget. In constant dollars, the agency's core budget (approximately $41.5 million) is essentially unchanged since fiscal 1966. Yet, during that same period, ACDA's missions have increased fivefold. Any temporary small savings from abolishing ACDA would be vastly outweighed by the budgetary and national security impact of arms control failures and foregone opportunities. For every dollar we spend on arms control, we avoid countless dollars in arms procurement made unnecessary by taking or keeping weapons out of the hands of potential adversaries. As former Defense Secretary Perry has said, arms control is defense by other means. In the process, ACDA is a national security bargain.

Can't ACDA's functions be performed by someone else?

No. The Agency's unique focus on arms control and nonproliferation issues provides a singular and invaluable perspective to the President, different from purely diplomatic, defense or other concerns. That is why an independent Agency was created in 1961, a decision whose wisdom has been proven in every Democratic and Republican Administration since. In fact, Congress in 1994 mandated a greater role for ACDA in nonproliferation, including export license reviews and sanctions, because Congress was concerned that export controls on trade with Iraq had been too lax in the years leading up to the Gulf War.

ACDA provides unique and irreplaceable expertise in arms control negotiations, law, intelligence analysis, technology and verification to make sure our treaty rights are respected. This mission is growing, not disappearing. Today, it is being achieved by a small cadre of highly-trained specialists whose sole purpose is to use arms control as a national security tool to reduce the risk that the United States and its allies would ever be threatened by the weapons of another nation.

Is ACDA efficient?

Yes - it is one of the leanest, most efficient organizations of the U.S. government. With around 250 people, ACDA has overseen the elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons. ACDA has acted as a staunch watchdog when other nations have failed to live up to their arms control commitments. Over the years ACDA's missions have grown fivefold in a period that has seen ACDA's budget increase by a mere 1.5 percent. ACDA is a streamlined, efficient Agency working to protect the American people.