Tuesday, January 9, 2007

PSI: The Bureaucratic Zombie

Another portion of H.R. 1 that should viewed with a skeptical eye is the bit on everyone's favorite bureaucratic zombie in the nonproliferation world: SEC. 1221. PROLIFERATION SECURITY INITIATIVE IMPROVEMENTS AND AUTHORITIES.

(a) Sense of Congress- It is the sense of Congress, consistent with the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, that the President should strive to expand and strengthen the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) announced by the President on May 31, 2003, with a particular emphasis on the following:

(1) Issuing a presidential directive to the relevant government agencies and departments that establishes a defined annual budget and clear authorities, and provides other necessary resources and structures to achieve more efficient and effective performance of United States PSI-related activities.

(2) Working with the United Nations Security Council to develop a resolution to authorize the PSI under international law.

(3) Increasing PSI cooperation with non-NATO partners.

(4) Implementing the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in the September 2006 report titled `Better Controls Needed to Plan and Manage Proliferation Security Initiative Activities' (GAO-06-937C), including the following:

(A) The Department of Defense and the Department of State should establish clear PSI roles and responsibilities, policies and procedures, interagency communication mechanisms, documentation requirements, and indicators to measure program results.

(B) The Department of Defense and the Department of State should develop a strategy to work with PSI-participating countries to resolve issues that are impediments to conducting successful PSI interdictions.

(5) Expanding and formalizing the PSI into a multilateral regime to increase coordination, cooperation, and compliance among its participating states in interdiction activities.

(b) Budget Submission- The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense shall submit a defined budget for the PSI, beginning with the budget submissions for their respective departments for fiscal year 2009.

(c) Implementation Report- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on the implementation of this section. The report shall include--

(1) the steps taken to implement the recommendations described in paragraph (4) of subsection (a); and

(2) the progress made toward implementing the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (5) of subsection (a).

(d) GAO Annual Report- The Government Accountability Office shall submit to Congress, beginning in fiscal year 2007, an annual report with its assessment of the progress and effectiveness of the PSI, which shall include an assessment of the measures referred to in subsection (a). I always heard that PSI was the brain child of John Bolton and that few in the State Department planned to further the program after his departure to Turtle Bay. It doesn't help that State has pointedly refused to provide more than scant details about PSI activities to the public and when they do, the information is usually misleading. Pardon my skepticism, but I wouldn't be surprised if the executive branch's silence on the program is more due to inactivity since PSI exercises in 2005 than classification issues.

In defense of the program, it did result in a raft of boarding agreements with many of the more notorious "flags of comfort" states (i.e. Liberia, Panama Cyprus). The U.S. also tried to turn PSI's brief momentum into a protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA Convention) that would make it illegal for nonmilitary ships to intentionally transport or launch nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. It also bans mounting such weapons on fixed sea platforms (i.e. oil rigs).

The protocol was drafted back in 2005 and has been open for ratification since February 2006, but it isn't clear how many states have signed or ratified it. Either way, the PSI portion of H.R. 1 smacks of too little Congressional being applied too late (much like the many CFIUS bills that came out of the Dubai Ports World debacle).

As a side note, I could probably write a book about Section 501 from H.R. 1 that requires all container cargo inbound to the U.S. be screened and sealed before it even leaves its home port. Now would be a good time to get a job as a transit advisor for Customs and Border Protection because the demand for U.S. technical assistance abroad would balloon under this new rule.

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