Index

Biological Weapons: Effort to Reduce Former Soviet Threat Offers
Benefits, Poses New Risks (Letter Report, 04/28/2000, GAO/NSIAD-00-138).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed efforts to reduce the
threat of biological weapons proliferation from the former Soviet Union,
focusing on: (1) the potential threats that the former Soviet biological
weapons institutes could pose to the United States; (2) current and
future U.S. efforts to address these threats; and (3) risks associated
with the expanded U.S. effort and executive branch plans to mitigate
them.

GAO noted that: (1) the former Soviet Union's biological weapons
institutes continue to threaten U.S. national security because they have
key assets that are both dangerous and vulnerable to misuse, according
to Department of State and Defense officials; (2) these assets include
as many as 15,000 underpaid scientists and researchers, specialized
facilities and equipment, and large collections of dangerous biological
pathogens; (3) these assets could harm the United States if hostile
countries or groups were to hire the institutes or biological weapons
scientists to conduct weapons-related work; (4) also of concern is the
potential sale of dangerous pathogens to terrorist groups or countries
of proliferation concern; (5) State and Defense officials told GAO that
since 1997, Iran and other countries have intensified their efforts to
acquire biological weapons expertise and materials from former Soviet
biological weapons institutes; (6) much of the former Soviet biological
weapons program's infrastructure, such as buildings and equipment, still
exists primarily in Russia; (7) the U.S. strategy for addressing these
proliferation threats at the source has been to fund collaborative
research activities with the institutes to: (a) reduce their incentives
to work with hostile states and groups; and (b) increase their openness
to the West; (8) for fiscal years (FY) 1994 through 1999, the United
States allocated about $20 million to fund collaborative research
projects to help redirect former biological weapons scientists to
peaceful research activities; (9) for FY 2000 through FY 2004, the
executive branch plans to spend about $220 million to expand its efforts
to engage former Soviet biological weapons institutes; (10) about half
of these funds will be used to continue efforts to redirect scientists
toward peaceful civilian research; (11) key risks to expanding the
program include sustaining Russia's existing biological weapons
infrastructure, maintaining or advancing Russian scientists' skills to
develop offensive biological weapons, and the potential misuse of U.S.
assistance to fund offensive research; and (12) to mitigate risks
associated with research on dangerous pathogens, the United States plans
to use U.S. experts residing in Russia--if Russia permits--at the
institutes to monitor the projects.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  NSIAD-00-138
     TITLE:  Biological Weapons: Effort to Reduce Former Soviet Threat
	     Offers Benefits, Poses New Risks
      DATE:  04/28/2000
   SUBJECT:  International cooperation
	     Biological warfare
	     Foreign governments
	     Federal aid to foreign countries
	     Toxic substances
	     Arms control agreements
	     Research programs
	     Weapons research and development
IDENTIFIER:  Soviet Union
	     DOD Cooperative Threat Reduction Program
	     DOE Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program
	     Russia
	     Kazakhstan
	     Armenia
	     Iran

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GAO/NSIAD-00-138

Appendix I: Comments From the Department of State

38

Appendix II: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments

41

Figure 1: Large Aerosol Test Chamber at Russia's State Research
Center for Virology and Biotechnology (Vector),
Koltsovo, Russia 11

Figure 2: Small Aerosol Test Chamber at the State Research Center
for Toxicology and Hygienic Regulation of Biopreparations, Serpukhov, Russia
12

Figure 3: Smallpox Repository (building on right) at the Vector
Research Institute, Koltsovo, Russia 13

Figure 4: U.S. Funds Provided for Science Center Biotechnology
Projects (U.S. portion only), 1994-99 18

Figure 5: Number of Science Center Biotechnology Projects Funded
(U.S. portion only), 1994-99 19

Figure 6: Energy Department Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Funding
for Biotechnology Projects, 1994-99 20

Figure 7: Number of Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention
Biotechnology Projects Funded, 1994-99 21

Figure 8: Number of Former Soviet Biological Weapons Staff
Receiving Science Center Grants, 1994-99 23

Figure 9: Department of Defense's Dismantlement of the World's
Largest Anthrax Production Facility in Stepnorgorsk,
Kazakhstan 26

National Security and
International Affairs Division

B-282985

April 28, 2000

The Honorable Floyd Spence
Chairman
The Honorable Ike Skelton
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives

The Honorable Pat Roberts
Chairman, Subcommittee on Emerging
Threats and Capabilities
Committee on Armed Services
United States Senate

Although it signed the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention,1 the
former Soviet Union covertly developed the world's largest offensive
biological weapons program, which relied on a network of military and
nonmilitary scientific institutes, according to a January 2000 Department of
Defense report to Congress.2 Many of these nonmilitary institutes were
overseen by Biopreparat--an ostensibly civilian pharmaceutical enterprise
that exploited the inherent dual-use nature of biotechnology to mask Soviet
development of biological weapons using specially engineered strains of
dangerous pathogens, including anthrax, plague, and smallpox. Russia
renounced the Soviet program in 1992 and subsequently cut funding for
Biopreparat institutes; nonetheless, the United States remains concerned
about the extent of Russia's compliance with the Convention. Reasons for
concern include Biopreparat's retention of its Cold War leadership and
existing ties to former Soviet nonmilitary biological weapons institutes in
Russia, although Biopreparat no longer funds them. Although Russia has
generally allowed the United States access to its nonmilitary institutes
that receive U.S. nonproliferation assistance, Russia has consistently
rebuffed U.S. efforts to inspect its military institutes currently managed
by the Ministry of Defense.

Notwithstanding these concerns, in 1994 the United States began funding
collaborative research projects with former Soviet biological weapons
scientists3 because it feared that these scientists might be driven by
financial pressures to sell their skills to countries of proliferation
concern or to terrorist groups.4 The executive branch initially funded this
effort at modest levels and used it to redirect scientists to peaceful
activities; however, it is now expanding the program's size and scope.
Because of this shift, you asked us to review U.S. efforts to address the
threat of biological weapons proliferation from the former Soviet Union.
Accordingly, we examined

· the potential threats that the former Soviet biological weapons institutes
could pose to the United States,

· current and future U.S. efforts to address these threats, and

· risks associated with the expanded U.S. effort and executive branch plans
to mitigate them.

Key sources of information for this report include policy and program
officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy, as well as
other U.S. government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. We also
obtained information about the former Soviet biological weapons program from
the former Deputy Chief of Biopreparat (1988-92), who now lives in Virginia.
In December 1999, we visited six former Soviet nonmilitary biological
weapons institutes in Russia that receive U.S. assistance. We also visited
and met with officials from the International Science and Technology Center
in Moscow. We developed this report based on unclassified sources and
information; however, we also obtained classified information from the
Departments of State and Defense.

The former Soviet Union's biological weapons institutes continue to threaten
U.S. national security because they have key assets that are both dangerous
and vulnerable to misuse, according to State and Defense Department
officials. These assets include as many as 15,000 underpaid scientists and
researchers, specialized facilities and equipment (albeit often in a
deteriorated condition), and large collections of dangerous biological
pathogens. These assets could harm the United States if hostile countries or
groups were to hire the institutes or biological weapons scientists to
conduct weapons-related work. Also of concern is the potential sale of
dangerous pathogens to terrorist groups or countries of proliferation
concern. State and Defense officials told us that since 1997, Iran and other
countries have intensified their efforts to acquire biological weapons
expertise and materials from former Soviet biological weapons institutes. In
addition, deteriorated physical safety and security conditions could leave
dangerous pathogens vulnerable to theft or distribution into the local
environment. Finally, much of the former Soviet biological weapons program's
infrastructure, such as buildings and equipment, still exists primarily in
Russia. While most of these components have legitimate biotechnological
applications, they also harbor the potential for renewed production of
offensive biological agents.

The U.S. strategy for addressing these proliferation threats at the source
has been to fund collaborative research activities with the institutes to
(1) reduce their incentives to work with hostile states and groups and
(2) increase their openness to the West. While the executive branch
initially implemented this strategy with a modest level of funding, it is
now seeking a tenfold increase in funding in response to intensified
proliferation attempts by Iran and other countries of proliferation concern.
The increased funding will support an expanded array of collaborative
activities, including biodefense research5 against biological agents,
security upgrades to select facilities, and dismantlement of unneeded
facilities.

· For fiscal years 1994 through 1999, the United States allocated about
$20 million, primarily from the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy,
to fund collaborative research projects to help redirect former biological
weapons scientists to peaceful research activities. Key program benefits
during this period included providing grants to fund more than 2,200 former
Soviet biological weapons personnel--including more than 745 senior
biological weapons scientists--and gaining some access to more than 30 of
about 50 nonmilitary institutes. State and Defense officials told us that
the U.S. programs have denied proliferators such as Iran access to
biological weapons expertise and scientists at over 15 former Soviet
biological weapons institutes.

· For fiscal years 2000 through 2004, the executive branch plans to spend
about $220 million to expand its efforts to engage former Soviet biological
weapons institutes. About half of these funds will be used to continue
efforts to redirect scientists toward peaceful civilian research.

· In an emerging area of emphasis, Defense and State plan to spend about $36
million to fund collaborative research with Russian institutes on dangerous
pathogens. This research is intended to improve the U.S. defenses against
biological weapons threats. The Department of Defense also plans to spend
(1) $40 million to upgrade security and safety systems at select facilities
in Russia and (2) $39 million to consolidate and dismantle biological
weapons facilities in Russia as it has done in Kazakhstan--if Russia agrees.

We found that expanding the program will pose certain risks to the United
States. The key risks include sustaining Russia's existing biological
weapons infrastructure, maintaining or advancing Russian scientists' skills
to develop offensive biological weapons, and the potential misuse of U.S.
assistance to fund offensive research. Although seeking to add international
transparency and compliance provisions to the Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention, the United States relies on safeguards implemented at the
institute and project levels to mitigate risk. Such safeguards include (1)
securing assurances from the institutes that they will abstain from
offensive research or proliferation activities,
(2) performing interagency reviews of all proposed projects, and
(3) implementing a set of financial and programmatic oversight mechanisms
for all projects. To mitigate risks associated with research on dangerous
pathogens, the United States plans to use U.S. experts residing in Russia
and--if Russia permits--at the institutes to monitor the projects. None of
these measures, however, would prevent Russian project participants or
institutes from potentially using their skills or research outputs to later
work on offensive weapons activities at any of the Russian military
institutes that remain closed to the United States.

Biological weapons are viral or bacterial pathogens, or toxins that have
been developed to cause disease in humans, animals, or plants or lead to the
destruction of materials. They are considered to be weapons of mass
destruction, as are nuclear, chemical, and radiological weapons.

The United States halted its biological weapons program in 1969. In 1972,
the United States, the Soviet Union, and a number of other states signed the
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which prohibits the stockpiling and
production of microbial and other agents for offensive purposes. Unlike
other arms control treaties, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
contains no verification provisions to assess compliance. The Convention
also permits research on biological agents for peaceful purposes, which may
include the development of new vaccines and other medical countermeasures to
infectious agents. This type of research is difficult to distinguish from
offensive research because of the inherent dual-use nature of biotechnology.
For example, equipment that can be used to produce vaccines can also be used
to produce biological weapons. Research that supports medical responses to
infection can also be applied toward offensive weapons development.

Following its ratification of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in
1972, the Soviet Union established Biopreparat as a civilian pharmaceutical
and biotechnology enterprise, which also served as the civilian focal point
of the Soviet biological weapons program. According to the former Deputy
Chief of Biopreparat, by the late 1980s, the Soviet biological weapons
complex included about 50 institutes and employed 60,000 personnel.
Capitalizing on post-1972 advances in biotechnology such as genetic
engineering, the Soviet Union program researched and produced a range of
weapons employing smallpox, anthrax, plague, and other dangerous pathogens.
In 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged the existence of the
Soviet Union's offensive biological weapons program and pledged that Russia
would comply with the terms of the Convention.

The current U.S. strategy to combat the proliferation of biological or other
weapons of mass destruction focuses on preventing the supply or acquisition
of such weapons, adapting U.S. military forces and emergency assets to
respond to their use, reducing existing foreign capabilities, and deterring
the use of such weapons. Increasing concerns regarding the potential use of
biological weapons by countries of proliferation concern or terrorist groups
led the United States to allocate about $1.4 billion in fiscal year 1999 for
governmentwide biological defense programs, including civilian and military
force protection, bioterrorism countermeasures, and emergency preparedness.

The United States is currently funding two key programs designed to prevent
the proliferation of former Soviet scientists who have expertise in
developing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and
biological weapons.

· Since 1994, the United States has provided assistance to former Soviet
weapons of mass destruction scientists and engineers through the
International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. The Science Center
was established by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and Japan
in November 1992 to provide peaceful research opportunities to former Soviet
weapons scientists and redirect their skills away from producing weapons of
mass destruction. The Science Center provides most of its assistance in the
form of tax-free grants that are deposited directly into the individual
accounts of participating scientists and engineers. The Science Center
maintains a staff of over 100 to provide management and financial oversight.
U.S.-funded projects are also subject to audits by the U.S. Defense Contract
Audit Agency.6

The Department of State serves as the U.S. coordinator to the Science
Center. State has used FREEDOM Support Act7 and the Department of Defense
Cooperative Threat Reduction programs to fund core collaborative research
projects. Since 1997, the National Academy of Sciences, the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the
Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services signed partnership
agreements with the Science Center that allow them to fund their own
biotechnology projects through the Center.

· The Department of Energy launched the Initiatives for Proliferation
Prevention program in 1994 to engage former Soviet nuclear, chemical, and
biological weapons scientists in research that is oriented toward commercial
activities. The program relies on U.S. national laboratories to take the
lead in working with former Soviet weapons institutes. The program funds its
research projects through firm fixed-price contracts with the institutes and
pays the institutes for specified deliverables. Our 1999 review of the
program raised numerous concerns, including the extent to which program
funds went to U.S. national laboratories versus former Soviet institutes,
and the extent to which some of its projects involved dual-use research.8

Former Soviet biological weapons institutes continue to pose serious threats
to U.S. national security, particularly in light of Russia's continued
economic distress. Primarily located in Russia, these institutes possess
significant assets in terms of human capital, physical infrastructure, and
dangerous pathogen collections. These assets could pose a potential threat
through (1) proliferation of biological weapons expertise to countries or
terrorist groups seeking such weapons; (2) proliferators seeking to engage
these institutes in weapons research; (3) theft, sale, transfer or
industrial accidents involving dangerous pathogens; and (4) Russia's use of
these assets to reconstitute an offensive biological weapons program.

Assets

About 50 former Soviet biological weapons institutes continue to exist
today--most of which are in Russia. Defense Department officials told us
that the Russian Ministry of Defense still manages at least four former
Soviet military biological weapons institutes to which Russia has
consistently refused to grant the United States access. A senior Science
Center official noted that the Russian government has not restricted the
Center's access to former Soviet nonmilitary biological weapons institutes
that receive U.S. assistance. While the Science Center has funded projects
and gained access to more than 30 such institutes, the official noted that
at least 15 other nonmilitary institutes have not received Center funding.

The Science Center official also estimated that there may be as many as
5,000 senior former Soviet biological weapons scientists who could pose
significant proliferation risks and another 10,000 personnel who have
weapons-relevant skills. At the six institutes that we visited in December
1999, institute officials said their institutes had lost as much as one-half
of their former workforce but noted that they had released administrative
and technical support staff in efforts to retain their senior scientists.
The senior Science Center official also said these highly trained senior
scientists, many with doctorates or other advanced degrees, represent the
intellectual core of the world's largest and most sophisticated biological
weapons program.

During our visit to the six institutes, we observed that many of these
institutes have retained physical assets that could be applied to biological
weapons research. Officials at two of the Russian institutes--the State
Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology (Vector) and the State
Research Center for Applied Microbiology (Obolensk)--said they continue to
conduct research on live pathogens for legitimate purposes. Research on
dangerous live pathogens, whether for legitimate or illicit purposes,
requires advanced biosafety containment laboratories, which these institutes
maintained.

· At the Russian State Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology
(Vector), we observed one of the institute's two large aerosol test
chambers, which institute officials said are the largest in Russia or Europe
(see fig. 1). Aerosol test chambers are used to test and refine the
aerosolization of biological agents--a critical aspect of biological weapons
delivery. Defense Department officials told us that neither chamber had been
used in years.

Figure 1: Large Aerosol Test Chamber at Russia's State Research Center for
Virology and Biotechnology (Vector), Koltsovo, Russia
Source: GAO.

· At Russia's State Research Center for Toxicology and Hygienic Regulation
of Biopreparations, we observed 10 advanced aerosol test chambers in which
researchers currently conduct toxicology studies for chemical and
biotechnology research (see fig. 2).

Figure 2: Small Aerosol Test Chamber at the State Research Center for
Toxicology and Hygienic Regulation of Biopreparations, Serpukhov, Russia
Source: GAO.

· At the Puschino branch of the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute, we toured a
large animal breeding and testing facility. U.S. and institute officials
told us the facility--constructed by the Soviet Ministry of Defense for $18
million in 1989--is the most modern facility among the former Soviet
biological weapons institutes. A U.S. scientist accompanying us during our
tour stated these state-of-the-art animal facilities would be an asset to
Russia's biotechnology field. Institute officials noted that in 1999, the
United States provided about $500,000 to upgrade a small rodent breeding
facility. This upgrade will allow the facility to conduct internationally
certified clinical testing and to breed animals for use in other
biotechnical research and development projects throughout Russia.9

Several former Soviet biological weapons institutes continue to maintain
vast collections of dangerous pathogens that could be used for legitimate
public health research or for an offensive biological weapons program.

· Vector is one of the world's two authorized smallpox repositories (see
fig. 3).10 In addition to smallpox, the Department of Defense has reported
that Vector continues to maintain a culture collection that includes over
15,000 viral strains, including the highly lethal Marburg and Ebola viruses.

Figure 3: Smallpox Repository (building on right) at the Vector Research
Institute, Koltsovo, Russia
Source: GAO.

· According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology (Obolensk) contains a
2,000 microorganism collection that includes genetically engineered strains
of anthrax and other dangerous pathogens.

· A December 1999 Russian journal article identified the Russian Ministry of
Defense's Microbiology Scientific Research Institute at Sergiyev Posad as
maintaining a national collection of dangerous pathogens, including Ebola,
Marburg, and Lassa viruses.11

· According to a recent Henry L. Stimson Center report,12 several
agricultural and anti-plague institutes in Russia and Kazakhstan maintain
dangerous pathogen collections for their research.

These threat assets could be misused if third parties obtained access either
to the scientists, the institutes, or the pathogens themselves. The assets
could also be subject to unauthorized access or used to sustain or renew an
offensive biological weapons program.

Proliferation of Weapons Expertise

State, Defense, and Energy Department officials said the dire financial
conditions at former Soviet biological weapons institutes could encourage
the proliferation of weapons expertise to countries or groups of concern.
This proliferation could occur either if former Soviet biological weapons
scientists emigrate to countries of proliferation concern in search of
higher pay or if such countries or terrorist groups engage impoverished
institutes in research that would augment their biological weapons programs.
State and Defense officials told us that since 1997 Iran and other countries
of proliferation concern have intensified their efforts to acquire
biological weapons expertise and materials from at least 15 former Soviet
biological weapons institutes. An unclassified Central Intelligence Agency
report notes that these countries and terrorist groups could make dramatic
leaps forward in their biological weapons programs by importing talent from
Russia.13 Another unclassified Central Intelligence Agency report notes that
Russia is a significant source of biotechnology expertise for Iran and that
Russia's world-leading biological weapons program makes it an attractive
target for Iranians seeking technical information and training on biological
weapons production processes.14

Five of the six institute directors told us of significant reductions of
funding since the breakup of the former Soviet Union. Officials at Russia's
State Research Center for Applied Microbiology told us that their operating
budget dropped from about $25 million in 1991 to about $2.5 million in 1999.
Institute officials said the actual purchasing power of the scientists'
salaries had decreased by more than 75 percent during this time. Numerous
senior scientists told us their current salaries ranged from $40 to $80 a
month.

Institute officials at the six institutes we visited said most of the
scientific staff that had left their institutes had gone to the United
States or Europe. Although none of the institute officials reported
knowledge of scientists moving to countries of proliferation concern, the
former Deputy Chief of Biopreparat and various media reports identify
instances in which scientists have moved to such countries. Officials at
three institutes we visited reported that, in the past, representatives of
countries of proliferation concern had approached them seeking to initiate
questionable dual-use research. Officials at the three institutes told us
they had refused these offers because of a pledge made to U.S. executive
branch officials as a condition of receiving U.S. assistance. The pledge
includes avoiding cooperation both with countries of proliferation concern
or with terrorist groups.

Theft, Sale, Transfer or Accidental Release of Dangerous Pathogens

Officials from the Departments of State and Defense said they are concerned
that dangerous pathogen stocks could be stolen and used for illicit purposes
or that an industrial accident could occur. These officials cited a recent
nongovernmental report that identified several instances of theft or
diversion of dangerous pathogens, including smallpox, plague, and anthrax,
from institutes in Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan.15 The Defense Department
notes that providing physical security is difficult because of the small
size of pathogen vials. Also, pathogens cannot be detected using X-ray
machines. For example, a seed culture of dried anthrax spores could be
carried in a sealed plastic vial the size of a thumbnail, making detection
almost impossible. Also of concern is the potential sale of dangerous
pathogens to terrorist groups or countries of proliferation concern.
Although some institutes had impressive equipment and modern facilities, we
also observed that much of the infrastructure was severely deteriorated or
often unused. Deteriorated conditions may be compounded by potential human
error such as the case of the 1979 accidental release of anthrax from a
Soviet military facility in Sverdlovsk, Russia (now Yekaterinburg), which
resulted in the deaths of at least 66 people.

Potential for Sustaining or Renewing an Offensive Program

Russia could potentially sustain or renew an offensive biological weapons
program by using the former Soviet program's existing human and physical
assets, according to State and Defense Department officials. Such assets
include the institutes, which supported a covert national offensive
biological weapons program that continued in spite of the Biological and
Toxin Weapons Convention. The Department of Defense has reported16 that the
United States remains concerned about Russia's biological weapons
capabilities and its compliance with the Convention. State and Defense
officials told us in March 2000 that they remain concerned that offensive
research may continue to take place at the Russian Ministry of Defense
facilities to which the United States has no access. Another issue of
concern is that the leadership of the former Soviet biological weapons
program remains largely in place. In a January 2000 report,17 the Defense
Department stated that the same generals who directed the Soviet biological
weapons program continue to lead the greatly reduced Russian military
defensive biological weapons program, while the same Soviet-era general
continues to direct Biopreparat.

Expanding in Size and Scope

To address the continued threat posed by former Soviet biological weapons
assets, the executive branch is expanding its cooperative engagement efforts
with the former Soviet biological weapons institutes. Initial efforts were
designed to address the U.S. strategic objectives of reducing proliferation
by discouraging institutes and their scientists from cooperating with
countries of proliferation concern or terrorist groups while increasing
their openness to the United States and the international community. Through
1999, the United States had provided more than
$20 million to fund civilian collaborative research project grants to more
than 2,200 personnel from former Soviet biological weapons institutes. As a
result of these activities, the United States obtained some degree of access
to more than 30 former Soviet biological weapons institutes. State and
Defense officials told us that the U.S. programs have denied proliferation
attempts by Iran and other countries of proliferation concern to more than
15 former Soviet biological weapons institutes. In addition, the United
States has provided $4 million to dismantle the world's largest anthrax
production and weaponization facility in Stepnorgorsk, Kazakhstan. In
response to the intensified proliferation attempts by Iran and other
countries of proliferation concern, the executive branch now plans to
greatly expand its program to increase the civilian research component and
broaden the scope to include biodefense research, security enhancements at
select facilities, and--if Russia agrees--the consolidation and
dismantlement of select former Soviet biological weapons facilities in
Russia.

Scientists

U.S. program efforts to date have relied primarily on two mechanisms to fund
nonproliferation activities at former Soviet biological weapons
institutes--the International Science and Technology Center and the
Department of Energy's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program.18
From 1994 through 1999, the United States channeled about $8.5 million
through the International Science and Technology Center to fund
61 biotechnology projects in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia.19 As shown in
figures 4 and 5, this assistance and the number of projects funded have
risen sharply since 1996.

Figure 4: U.S. Funds Provided for Science Center Biotechnology Projects
(U.S. portion only), 1994-99
Note: Some projects are jointly funded with other Science Center financing
members, including the European Union, Japan, Norway, and the Republic of
Korea.

Source: GAO analysis of International Science and Technology Center data.

Figure 5: Number of Science Center Biotechnology Projects Funded (U.S.
portion only), 1994-99
Source: GAO analysis of International Science and Technology Center data.

The research projects have primarily focused on biotechnology research and
development projects, including research on new vaccines and environmental
remediation. Since 1998, four executive branch agencies have become Science
Center partners.20 As partners, the agencies develop and manage their own
collaborative research activities but rely on the Science Center for
administrative support, including tax-free direct payments to project
participants.

For fiscal years 1994 through 1999, the Department of Energy's Initiatives
for Proliferation Prevention has provided $11.7 million to fund
53 biotechnology projects in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. As shown in
figures 6 and 7, the assistance and number of projects implemented have
increased dramatically since 1996.

Figure 6: Energy Department Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Funding
for Biotechnology Projects, 1994-99
Source: Department of Energy.

Figure 7: Number of Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Biotechnology
Projects Funded, 1994-99
Source: Department of Energy.

For the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program, the assistance
totals are divided between the institutes, the U.S. national laboratories
that develop and manage the projects, and to support U.S. industries'
participation in the program. In 1999, we reported21 that a considerable
portion of program funds--63 percent--was used to pay for the costs of the
U.S. national laboratories (51 percent) and to support U.S. industries'
participation in the program (12 percent), while about 37 percent was
actually provided to the institutes. Program officials stated that the
program's use of U.S. national laboratory staff as project managers is
essential but noted that as of fiscal year 2000, they have implemented a
congressional restriction22 that limits the laboratories' portion to
35 percent of the total program funding. We also reported that while the
Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program's goal is to redirect
former biological weapons scientists to nonmilitary activities that have
commercial potential, no biotechnology projects to date have resulted in
commercialization. To address this issue and enhance the commercial
viability of its projects, program officials said that beginning in fiscal
year 2000 the program no longer uses the traditional basic research approach
of a national laboratory working with a former Soviet institute. Instead, it
is emphasizing larger U.S. industry cost-shared projects, whereby
corporations agree to fund a portion of the research and development costs.

Senior State, Defense, and Energy Department officials told us the Science
Center and Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention programs have helped to
discourage scientists from cooperating with countries of proliferation
concern and terrorist groups, while promoting openness at more than
30 former Soviet biological weapons institutes. State and Defense Department
officials identified at least 15 former Soviet biological weapons institutes
in which the United States has evidence that these programs have discouraged
the institutes and scientists from cooperating with countries of
proliferation concern such as Iran. These officials provided classified
evidence that could not be included in this report. However, as an
additional measure of performance, they noted that the Science Center
database indicates that about 1,655 employees associated with the former
Soviet biological weapons program received Science Center funding in 1999
(see fig. 8).

Figure 8: Number of Former Soviet Biological Weapons Staff Receiving Science
Center Grants, 1994-99
Source: International Science and Technology Center.

Our analysis of 61 U.S.-funded biotechnology related project plans funded by
the Science Center through 1999 indicated that about 745 of the project
participants were former senior weapons scientists,23 while about 910 were a
combination of less senior scientists with weapons-related skills and
various support staff. According to Science Center project plans, these
senior scientists devoted an average of 174 days to Science Center projects.
Most of the senior scientists we met with told us they spend between
25 and 75 percent of the year on these projects. Institute directors told us
that the Science Center grants were crucial to their institute budgets and
that this support helped them retain their core scientific staff. In fiscal
year 1999, the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program began
tracking the number of scientists and level of expertise employed in its
program. Program officials from the U.S. national laboratories reported that
570 employees, including scientists and support staff, from former Soviet
biological weapons institutes have received funding from 1994 through 1999.
Most of the employees worked at institutes located in Russia.

Officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy told us that
through these collaborative research projects, the United States has
achieved some access to more than 30 former Soviet biological weapons
institutes in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Armenia. For example, the
Science Center has funded projects at 29 institutes, including 19 primary
institutes where projects were developed and managed and 10 institutes that
provided support. In addition, the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention
program has funded contracts at 15 former Soviet biological weapons
institutes, including 10 funded by the Science Center. Of particular
significance is that projects funded by the two programs have provided some
access to 15 of the 20 former Soviet biological weapons institutes in Russia
that are considered key by the State Department.

U.S. project officials said these projects have provided access and openness
to facilities and scientists that would not have been available otherwise.
The Department of Defense informed Congress in a January 2000 report24 that
the access gained through the collaborative research programs has provided
"high confidence" that Biopreparat institutes such as Vector and Obolensk
are not presently engaged in offensive activities. During our visits to six
institutes in December 1999, institute officials invited us to tour
buildings and laboratories associated with U.S.- funded projects. We talked
with scientists participating in the programs and were allowed to take
photographs. The institute directors reported regular visits from the
international community, including congressional delegations, U.S. executive
branch officials, Science Center and Initiatives for Proliferation
Prevention program and financial managers, scientific collaborators,
auditors, and private sector officials.

Another key benefit of the U.S. assistance effort has been the internal
dismantlement of the world's largest anthrax production and weaponization
facility (see fig. 9) in Stepnogorsk, Kazakhstan, which is on target for
completion in May 2000. Dismantlement includes removing all production
equipment and capabilities from the facility. Department of Defense
officials note that this $4 million project has gone relatively smoothly.
They attribute its success to a good working relationship with the
Kazakhstan government and a formal implementing agreement that allows for
dismantlement activities. Institute officials have recently requested
additional U.S. assistance of up to $10 million to totally destroy the
production facility. As of March 2000, Department of State and Defense
officials said plans are underway to fund this effort and told us that the
total elimination of this production facility would substantially reduce
U.S. concerns about a reconstituted biological weapons production capability
in Kazakhstan.

Figure 9: Department of Defense's Dismantlement of the World's Largest
Anthrax Production Facility in Stepnorgorsk, Kazakhstan
Source: Department of Defense.

The initial U.S. program funded a modest effort to redirect former
biological weapons scientists to peaceful research. In late 1997, in
response to intensified attempts by Iran and other countries of
proliferation concern to acquire biological weapons expertise and materials
from former Soviet institutes, the United States decided to expand its
activities and provide a substantial increase in funds. The expanded program
will be funded through the Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative.25 For
fiscal years 2000 through 2004, the executive branch plans to spend about
$220 million to further engage former Soviet biological weapons institutes.
Approximately half of these funds will be used to continue efforts to
redirect scientists toward peaceful civilian research, including
participation by the Departments of Health and Human Services and
Agriculture as new Science Center partners. In addition, the executive
branch has allocated at least $36 million to support research by former
Soviet biological weapons scientists on improving defenses against
biological threat agents, $40 million to upgrade security and safety of
select facilities, and $39 million to destroy biological weapons facilities
in Russia as it has done in Kazakhstan--if Russia agrees.

State and Defense Department officials have decided to fund collaborative
research efforts with Russian scientists on dangerous pathogens to help
improve U.S. military and civilian defenses against biological threat
agents. Several Defense Department officials and the former Deputy Chief of
Biopreparat told us that former Soviet biological weapons scientists have at
least a 20-year lead over the United States in their understanding of
biological weapons. Defense officials maintain that this knowledge should be
useful in conducting research on how to protect the United States against
the use of such pathogens. The Department of Defense will manage its
collaborative biodefense research projects through the Defense Threat
Reduction Agency's Cooperative Threat Reduction program and the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency. In addition, the Department of
Agriculture also plans to support projects aimed at improving U.S. defenses
against the use of agricultural biological weapons such as foot and mouth
disease and wheat rust.

One important bioterrorism research initiative is the World Health
Organization's international research program on smallpox. As part of this
initiative, the Departments of Health and Human Services and Defense will
provide funds to Russia's Vector institute to research smallpox, a disease
supposedly eradicated in 1980. In 1996, the World Health Organization
decided to destroy all remaining declared smallpox stocks at the two
official repositories--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and
Vector. However, concerns that smallpox may have proliferated to countries
of proliferation concern or terrorist groups, combined with public health
issues, prompted the World Health Organization to delay the destruction of
the official stocks until 2002 and focus on medical treatment and
prevention. Thus, U.S. officials working with Russian scientists at Vector
have developed proposals for research aimed at addressing three key World
Health Organization research priorities. These include
(1) prompt recognition and diagnosis of the disease, (2) pathogenesis (the
process by which a pathogen creates a disease in an organism) using animals,
and (3) development of an antiviral drug for smallpox patients. As of March
2000, U.S., Russian, and World Health Organization officials were reviewing
at least four projects involving smallpox research with requested project
funding of about $5 million.

To reduce the risk that dangerous pathogens could be stolen or accidentally
released from former Soviet biological weapons institutes, the executive
branch plans to spend $40 million over the next 5 years to provide safety
and security upgrades to select facilities. Funding projects through the
Science Center, the Department of Defense recently signed agreements to
secure facilities at two of Russia's largest repositories of dangerous
pathogens--Vector and Obolensk. The security enhancement program will focus
on the protection, control, and accounting of biological materials and will
be conducted in two phases. Phase I work will include upgrading physical
security by installing fences, sensors, and electronic surveillance systems;
upgrading safety conditions inside the labs to ensure that future pathogen
research is conducted in a safe and reliable manner; and training security
personnel. Phase II will involve the development of biological material
protection, control, and accounting verification procedures. The estimated
cost of the initial security enhancements at Vector and Obolensk will be
about $1 million to $1.5 million each. Additional institutes and facilities
in Russia and Kazakhstan are being assessed for future upgrades.

The Department of Defense is presently assessing the possibility of
providing security upgrades to two repositories of large pathogen
collections in Russia: the Institute for Animal Health (Vladimir) and the
Institute of Phytopathology (Golitsino). In addition, the Defense Department
has recently awarded contracts for security upgrades at two institutes in
Kazakhstan: the Institute for Research on Plague Control in Almaty and the
State Research Institute for Agricultural Science. Approximately $4 million
has been allocated for the Kazakhstan projects. Department officials hope
that once the security enhancement projects are successfully completed in
Russia and Kazakhstan, collections from
less-protected institutes will be transferred to these facilities for safe
and controlled storage.

To reduce the infrastructure of former biological weapons research and
production facilities, the executive branch plans to spend $39 million for
consolidation and dismantlement of select facilities. Using the Stepnogorsk
dismantlement project as a model, the Department of Defense is currently
assessing facilities in Russia for future consolidation activities. Defense
officials acknowledge that work cannot start on such activities until the
Russian government signs an implementing agreement to permit this work.
Defense officials continue to seek an agreement with the Russian government;
however, they do not yet have one.

All Risk

In attempting to address the primary proliferation risks, the United States
may exacerbate some existing risks or create new ones. With Russia's
intentions regarding its inherited biological weapons capability still
unclear, the United States may exacerbate the risk of a reconstituted
Russian offensive biological weapons effort by sustaining these institutes
through its funding of collaborative research and other activities. U.S.
funding of biodefense research (research that focuses on civilian and
military protection against the use of biological agents) poses the
particular risk that Russian scientists could sustain or advance their
knowledge and skills related to developing dangerous pathogens or biological
weapons technologies. While pursuing transparency and compliance provisions
in the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention, the United States has
developed a set of safeguards primarily for the institute and individual
projects to prevent the misuse of funds or other inappropriate activity.
U.S. officials also plan to augment existing safeguards that would
mitigate--but not eliminate--the particular risks associated with engaging
former Soviet biological weapons scientists in collaborative biodefense
research.

Sustaining Russian Biological Weapons Capabilities

State and Defense Department officials agreed with our observation that
sustained U.S. support of institutes, especially through research aimed at
advancing U.S. biodefense capabilities, may help to preserve Russian
scientists' knowledge and skills and otherwise help to maintain these
institutes' capacity to research and develop biological weapons. This view
is buttressed by the former Deputy Chief of Biopreparat's belief that the
Biopreparat leadership tolerates international funding of its former
institutes because it has no funds to do so and this assistance allows the
institutes to remain intact and scientifically active in the absence of
Russian funding. In addition, a senior Science Center official cited
Biopreparat's recent firing of the director of a leading former Soviet
biological weapons institute that has received substantial U.S. funding as
an example of Biopreparat's continued interest in, and leverage over, the
institutes it formerly funded.

In addition to funding the scientists' salaries, the United States is
sustaining these Russian institutes by providing research equipment,
upgrading safety and security conditions, and improving some other
facilities, such as an animal-breeding center, which could theoretically be
used to support future research on biological weapons. Besides sustaining
Russia's biological weapons capability, the United States may exacerbate or
create other types of risks. For instance, (1) U.S. collaborative research
funds could be diverted to covert offensive weapons research, proliferation
activities, or other inappropriate use; (2) illicit research could
potentially take place during a U.S.- funded biodefense or other research
project; or (3) Russian scientists working on U.S.- funded biodefense
research could potentially advance or maintain their skills relating to
weapons-usable pathogens and technologies that could later be applied to
offensive weapons research.

The United States has taken a number of steps to try to mitigate some of
these risks at the national, institute, and project levels in Russia. To
address the risk that the United States may be sustaining Russia's
biological weapons capability at the national level, the United States
continues its efforts to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention to add transparency and compliance provisions, as well as
negotiating further agreements with Russia on biological weapons. The
Department of Defense has also initiated a dialogue with the Russian
Ministry of Defense to increase transparency and address concerns about
whether offensive biological weapons work continues at Ministry of Defense
facilities, although the United States has not yet achieved access to these
facilities. A trilateral inspection regime initiated by the United States,
the United Kingdom, and Russia in 1992 led to inspections of some
nonmilitary Russian facilities. However, Russia halted these inspections in
1994 and other steps, such as adding transparency and compliance provisions
to the Convention, have not been successful.

For nonmilitary institutes receiving U.S. assistance, U.S. officials said
the executive branch is considering a number of "graduation models" whereby
institutes would be permanently transformed into self-sustaining entities
that the United States would no longer consider to be threat risks and would
no longer require U.S. assistance. Such graduation models would build on
previous U.S. and international efforts to promote openness, expose these
institutes to commercial and other opportunities, and integrate them into
the international scientific community. An example of a graduation model
currently being considered is the conversion of a leading former Soviet
biological weapons institute into a fully transparent international research
center attracting scientists from around the world. Officials from the
Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program said they are developing an
exit strategy that plans to stop funding new projects by fiscal year 2005
and to successfully commercialize their ongoing projects.

Until an institute graduates into a peaceful, self-sustaining organization,
however, the United States will continue to implement safeguards at the
institute and individual project levels to mitigate risks. U.S. officials
told us that these safeguards are not intended to serve as substitutes for
arms control provisions. Prior to the funding of any U.S. collaborative
research project, Russian institute officials must pledge that their
institute will not perform offensive weapons research or engage in
proliferation activities. According to a January 1999 State Department
report,26 engaging in such inappropriate behavior would have an immediate
and negative impact on any U.S. assistance. Institute officials with whom we
met consistently told us that they are no longer involved in offensive
biological weapons activities and that they clearly understand the
conditions of U.S. collaborative research assistance. However, this pledge
only applies to institutes receiving U.S. assistance and not to those former
Soviet biological weapons institutes that do not receive U.S. assistance.
Additionally, U.S. assistance to select institutes may allow Russia to
reallocate funding to other institutes not receiving U.S. support and to
which the United States does not have access.

The United States has implemented a number of safeguards at the project
level, including (1) interagency reviews of proposals; (2) financial
oversight of projects; and (3) varying degrees of scientific project
monitoring based on the perceived risk of the project. Prior to funding
projects, the executive branch performs an interagency review of proposed
U.S. collaborative research projects to assess policy implications and
scientific merit, and to characterize potential dual-use risks. Agency
officials incorporate these assessments into their decisions about whether
to fund the projects, to amend them to reduce the risk, or to forego them
altogether. Because of the concern over sponsoring potentially sensitive
dual-use projects, Department of Energy officials said the Initiatives for
Proliferation Prevention program will not fund any new projects that have
been assessed as high risk. Officials involved in the interagency review
process note that the existing review process often takes many months to
complete. These officials attributed the delays to the increased number of
proposals needing review and the limited staff available to conduct the
reviews.

Once a project is underway at an institute, the United States uses several
means to guard against the misuse of project funds. Since 1994, the
International Science and Technology Center has directly deposited grant
payments into project participants' individual bank accounts, which prevents
the institutes from diverting funds for unauthorized purposes. In November
1999, the Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention program contracted with a
tax-exempt organization to provide a similar direct deposit system for its
projects. Program managers from the Science Center review programmatic and
financial documents on a quarterly basis, and the Science Center requires a
final audit of every project before it releases an overhead payment to an
institute. In addition, the U.S. Defense Contract Audit Agency has conducted
internal control audits for 10 Science Center biotechnology projects through
1999.27

While these projects are underway, the executive branch also monitors
projects to ensure that they are implemented according to the project plan
and to prevent inappropriate activities from occurring during a U.S.-funded
project. Executive branch agencies assign a U.S. or international scientist
to collaborate with the former Soviet scientists. These scientists monitor
the progress of the project, identify any problems, and ensure that the
research is of sufficient quality. Although the degree of contact varies,
U.S. and international collaborators typically meet with the former Soviet
scientists who serve as project managers at least once a year and supplement
these meetings through regular email and other communications. We did not,
however, evaluate the sufficiency and effectiveness of these safeguards.

Executive branch officials told us that they plan to augment existing
safeguards to limit the unintended consequences associated with the
expanding U.S. portfolio of biodefense research projects. These officials
acknowledge that these steps will mitigate, but not fully eliminate, the
risks associated with this type of research. For moderately sensitive
projects, the Department of Defense plans to place a former U.S. military
biologist in Moscow by May 2000 to provide greater in-country monitoring and
oversight for the Department's portfolio of projects, especially during
critical research phases of a project. This scientist would travel on a
regular basis to institutes where the Department is funding research and
review the progress of these projects.

For the most sensitive projects that pose the greatest dual-use risks, the
United States will seek to place U.S. scientists in residence at the
institute where the research is taking place, according to Defense
officials. By focusing research on dangerous pathogens or key technologies
relevant to biological weapons, these projects would be the most likely to
inadvertently advance Russian biological weapons capabilities. To mitigate
this risk, in addition to routine safeguard measures, the U.S. scientists
would work in the laboratory side-by-side with their Russian counterparts to
advance U.S. confidence about the research and to ensure that the United
States receives the same research results. For example, if the smallpox
projects are approved, the executive branch plans to place a U.S. scientist
at Vector. Similarly, the Departments of Defense and Agriculture plan to
seek on-site collaboration for their most sensitive projects. Department of
Defense officials told us that they will seek on-site collaboration for
projects that either involve research on live animals or that develop new
antiviral drugs against known biological weapons. They estimate the cost of
an individual collaborator to be about $250,000 per year. They note this
could eventually constitute as much as half of the Department's overall
collaborative research budget. At this point, however, the United States and
Russia have not yet reached an agreement that would allow U.S. scientists to
live and work at Russian institutes. Without such an agreement, Department
of Defense officials said they would not fund these sensitive research
projects.

U.S. officials said these on-site collaboration arrangements would offer the
United States significant oversight; however, they acknowledge that even
on-site collaboration does not eliminate all potential risks. In fact, they
acknowledge that none of the above safeguards would address the risk that
Russian scientists could later transfer their skills and research outputs to
offensive activities at facilities that remain closed to the United States.
This risk is exacerbated by the fact that safeguards at the national level
do not exist and that the United States does not have access to Russian
military facilities. Officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and
Energy all acknowledge the risks involved in funding former Soviet
biological weapons institutes. However, they believe that failing to engage
these institutes in collaborative activities represents an even greater risk
to U.S. national security by leaving them vulnerable to proliferation.

The Departments of State, Defense, and Energy provided consolidated comments
on a draft of this report. The agencies concurred with our report's findings
and acknowledge the risks involved in engaging these former Soviet
biological weapons institutes, but said that the benefits outweigh the
risks. They further stated that it is critical that the United States
continue its effort to redirect these institutes and scientists toward
peaceful endeavors. Although discussed in our report, the agencies
reiterated that (1) access gained as a result of U.S. assistance programs
has significantly increased U.S. confidence that the participating
institutes are not conducting offensive biological weapons research and (2)
the expanded program was not based on an abrupt change in policy or
approach, but rather reflects program progressions based on increasing
levels of confidence. Joint comments from the agencies are presented in
appendix I. The agencies also provided technical comments that were
incorporated into the report as appropriate.

To assess the potential risks that the former Soviet biological weapons
institutes could pose to the United States, we met with senior executive
branch officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy and with
senior staff at the National Security Council. We met with nongovernmental
experts on biological weapons and nonproliferation issues at organizations,
including the Henry L. Stimson Center and the Monterey Institute of
International Studies in Washington, D.C. We collected and analyzed both
classified and unclassified reports and related threat information from the
federal government, nongovernmental organizations, the media, and other
sources. To discuss the history of the Soviet biological weapons program and
the threats that it continues to pose, we met with the former Deputy Chief
of Biopreparat, who now works in Alexandria, Virginia.

We visited six leading former Soviet biological weapons institutes in Russia
where officials informed us that they employ 4,500 staff and about
500 senior scientists with biological weapons backgrounds. State and Defense
Department officials identified the six institutes we visited as being
representative of the former Soviet biological weapons program. The
institutes included the (1) State Research Center for Virology and
Biotechnology (Vector) in Koltsovo, (2) State Research Center for Applied
Microbiology in Obolensk, (3) State Research Center for Ultra Pure
Biopreparations in St. Petersburg, (4) State Research Center for Toxicology
and Hygienic Regulation of Biopreparations in Serpukhov, (5) State Research
Center for Molecular Diagnostics and Therapy in Moscow, and (6) the Puschino
branch of the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry. At
these institutes, we met with directors and scientists to discuss
proliferation risks, and we toured the facilities.

To develop information about the U.S. assistance efforts to address these
threats, we met with policy and program officials from the three primary
departments funding engagement activities as well as other U.S. agencies
also involved in these programs. At the State Department, we met with senior
officials in the Bureau of Nonproliferation and in the Office of the
Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to the Newly Independent States. At the
Defense Department, we met with officials in the Office of Threat Reduction
Policy, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency. At the Energy Department, we met with Initiatives
for Proliferation Prevention senior program officials and also with
representatives from the U.S. national laboratories, including the Idaho
National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory. We also met with senior program officials from the
Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service and the Department
of Health and Human Service's Biotechnology Engagement Program to discuss
their planned activities as Science Center partner organizations. In
addition, we met with officials at the National Academy of Sciences and the
U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation to discuss collaborative
research projects they have funded.

In Russia, we met with officials and staff at the International Science and
Technology Center in Moscow to discuss project management and oversight
issues. At the six Russian institutes we visited, we met with institute
directors and scientists receiving U.S. assistance. To determine program
benefits, we examined program data from 1994 through 1999 that identified
performance measures such as the level of funding provided and the number of
scientists and institutes engaged. Although we reviewed classified
information provided by the Departments of State and Defense regarding the
programs' benefits, we did not include this information in our report. To
determine the percentage of scientists that are senior biological weapons
experts, we analyzed Science Center database and project plans to calculate
the numbers receiving U.S. assistance from 1994 through 1999.

To address the risks associated with the U.S. efforts and the steps the
executive branch is taking to mitigate them, we met with officials from many
agencies, including the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy as well as
the former Deputy Chief of Biopreparat. However, we did not evaluate the
sufficiency and effectiveness of these safeguards. We discussed the risks
involved in funding biological weapons research and how the United States
plans to address these risks. We met with officials from the United States
Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases to discuss
scientific collaboration issues. We also met with officials who participate
in the interagency review process to discuss the criteria used to review
project proposals. We reviewed U.S. Defense Contracts Auditing Agency audit
reports on biotechnology projects.

We performed our work from August 1999 through March 2000 in accordance with
generally accepted government auditing standards.

Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further
distribution of this report until 7 days from its issue date. At that time,
we will send copies of this report to other congressional committees; the
Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of State; the Honorable
William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense; and the Honorable Bill Richardson,
Secretary of Energy. Copies will also be made available to other interested
parties upon request.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please call
me at (202) 512-4128. Other GAO contacts and staff acknowledgments are
identified in appendix II.

Harold J. Johnson, Associate Director
International Relations and Trade Issues

Comments From the Department of State

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments

Boris L. Kachura, (202) 512-3161

In addition to those named above, Andrew D. Crawford, Valérie L. Nowak, Jodi
M. Prosser, and Pierre R. Toureille made key contributions to this report.

(711425)

Figure 1: Large Aerosol Test Chamber at Russia's State Research
Center for Virology and Biotechnology (Vector),
Koltsovo, Russia 11

Figure 2: Small Aerosol Test Chamber at the State Research Center
for Toxicology and Hygienic Regulation of Biopreparations, Serpukhov, Russia
12

Figure 3: Smallpox Repository (building on right) at the Vector
Research Institute, Koltsovo, Russia 13

Figure 4: U.S. Funds Provided for Science Center Biotechnology
Projects (U.S. portion only), 1994-99 18

Figure 5: Number of Science Center Biotechnology Projects Funded
(U.S. portion only), 1994-99 19

Figure 6: Energy Department Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Funding
for Biotechnology Projects, 1994-99 20

Figure 7: Number of Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention
Biotechnology Projects Funded, 1994-99 21

Figure 8: Number of Former Soviet Biological Weapons Staff
Receiving Science Center Grants, 1994-99 23

Figure 9: Department of Defense's Dismantlement of the World's
Largest Anthrax Production Facility in Stepnorgorsk,
Kazakhstan 26
  

1. The Convention's full title is the "Convention on the Prohibition of the
Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and
Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction" (26 U.S. Treaty 583, Apr. 10, 1972).

2. Section 1308: Report on Biological Weapons Programs in Russia (Arlington,
VA: Department of Defense, Jan. 2000). This report is required under the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999 (P.L. 105-261).

3. Early engagement efforts were funded through the International Science
and Technology Center using Department of Defense Cooperative Threat
Reduction funds. Funding responsibility for the Science Center was
transferred to the Department of State in 1996.

4. We defined terrorists as non-state actors that are not provided with a
state-developed weapon. Terrorists could be of foreign or domestic origin
and would be operating illegally and outside a state-run laboratory
infrastructure or weapons program.

5. Biodefense research focuses on civilian and military protection against
the use of biological agents, including developing medical countermeasures,
vaccines, and diagnostic systems.

6. Through 1999, the Defense Contract Audit Agency had issued audit reports
for
10 biotechnology projects.

7. The Freedom for Russia and Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open Markets
Support Act of 1992, or the FREEDOM Support Act (P.L. 102-511), provides for
economic and nonproliferation assistance to the independent states of the
former Soviet Union.

8. Nuclear Nonproliferation: Concerns With DOE's Efforts to Reduce the Risks
Posed by Russia's Unemployed Weapons Scientists (GAO/RCED-99-54 , Feb. 19,
1999).

9. All U.S. government funded projects must meet U.S. scientific and safety
regulatory requirements.

10. The World Health Organization has authorized Vector and the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, as the two official
smallpox repositories.

11. Fedor Smirnov, "Taming Viruses: Center for Special Diagnosis and
Treatment of Ultradangerous and Exotic Infectious Diseases Created" (Moscow,
Russia: Moscow Meditsinskaya Gazeta, Dec. 29, 1999).

12. Amy Smithson, Toxic Archipelago: Preventing Proliferation from the
Former Soviet Chemical and Biological Weapons Complexes (Washington, D.C.:
Henry L. Stimson Center, Dec. 1999).

13. Statement of Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence
for Nonproliferation John A. Lauder on the Worldwide Biological Warfare
Threat to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as Prepared
for Delivery on March 3, 1999 (Langley, VA: Central Intelligence Agency,
Mar. 3, 1999).

14. Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology
Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions,
January 1 to June 30, 1999 (Langley, VA: Central Intelligence Agency, Feb.
2, 2000).

15. Jonathan B. Tucker and Kathleen M. Vogel, "Preventing the Proliferation
of Chemical and Biological Weapons Materials and Know-How", The
Nonproliferation Review , Vol. 7 No. 1 (Spring 2000).

16. Section 1308: Report on Biological Weapons Programs in Russia .

17. Section 1308: Report on Biological Weapons Programs in Russia .

18. The U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation for the
Independent States of the former Soviet Union provided $829,813 to fund 16
biomedical and behavioral sciences cooperative scientific research
activities in Russia (8), Kazakhstan (4), Ukraine (3), and Georgia (1)
through 1999.

19. From January 1, 2000, through February 1, 2000, the Science Center
funded an additional
eight biotechnology projects totaling about $2.5 million.

20. The four executive branch partners participating in biotechnology
projects are the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense
Threat Reduction Agency, and the Departments of Agriculture and Health and
Human Services.

21. Nuclear Nonproliferation: Concerns With DOE's Efforts to Reduce the
Risks Posed by Russia's Unemployed Weapons Scientists.

22. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Section 3136
(P.L. 106-65).

23. From January 1, 2000, through February 1, 2000, the Science Center
funded an additional
87 senior weapons scientists.

24. Section 1308: Report on Biological Weapons Programs in Russia.

25. The executive branch's Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative, dated April
1999, provides a 5 -year funding proposal (fiscal years 2000-2004) to reduce
international security threats associated with the proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction from the former Soviet Union.

26. U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with the New
Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, Fiscal Year 1998 Annual
Report (Washington, D.C.: Department of State, Jan. 1999).

27. Our review of the 10 biotechnology audit reports identified various
accounting and timekeeping weaknesses, which Science Center officials said
they are working with the institutes to address.
*** End of document. ***