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State Department Targets Stores of Shoulder-fired Missiles

30 March 2006

Multiyear programs to destroy weapons need flexible budget process

Shoulder-fired missiles in the hands of terrorists and insurgents pose a serious danger to military and civilian aircraft, says John Hillen, U.S. assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

The State Department, he said, is asking Congress for funding flexibility in its efforts to reduce or destroy surplus stocks of these portable missiles, commonly known as MANPADS (man-portable air defense systems).

In testimony prepared for a House International Relations subcommittee March 30, Hillen said the department estimates that, since the 1970s, these missiles have hit more than 40 civilian aircraft and caused more than 600 deaths. “There is no higher priority,” he said, “… than keeping MANPADS out of the hands of the wrong people.”

Unfortunately, in many countries, stockpiles of shoulder-fired missiles are secured poorly or exist outside of government control, Hillen said.

Programs to reduce massive global stocks of these and other excess conventional arms, he said, are constrained by Congress’ one-year budgeting process, as the negotiation and implementation of destruction agreements can take several years.

Hillen also cited occasions on which stockpiles of shoulder-fired missiles are suddenly offered for destruction and the State Department must “scramble for resources to cover [the] associated costs” of destroying them.

Nevertheless, progress is being made in reducing the number of these uniquely dangerous weapons, Hillen said.

Since the department began focusing its Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction program specifically on shoulder-fired missiles in 2003, some 18,500 MANPADS have been destroyed and there are commitments for the destruction of 5,000 more.

Hillen gave a few country-specific examples of U.S. bilateral assistance:

• Cambodia: 233 shoulder-fired missiles destroyed.

• Bosnia-Herzegovina: nearly 6,000 destroyed.

• Hungary: 1,540 destroyed.

• Nicaragua: 1,000 destroyed. 

• Ukraine: at least 1,000 to be destroyed, beginning in spring 2006.

Following is the text of Hillen’s prepared remarks:

(begin text)

Testimony of John Hillen
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
Before the House International Relations Committee
Subcommittee for International Terrorism and Nonproliferation

March 30, 2006


Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to discuss the issue of reducing the threat from man-portable air defense systems, commonly known as MANPADS.  I appreciate your interest and support in addressing this threat.  As Under Secretary [of state for International Security and Arms Control Robert] Joseph stated in his February 9 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while the threat from WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and their delivery systems must be our highest priority, we are also working actively to reduce the massive stocks of surplus conventional arms worldwide.  There is no higher priority in this area than keeping MANPADS out of the hands of the wrong people.


Potential MANPADS use by terrorists, insurgents, and other non-state actors is a serious danger.  In addition to the threat they present to Coalition military aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan, MANPADS -- due to their potential lethality, relatively small size, and portability -- pose a unique threat to commercial aircraft.  Although many of the MANPADS currently in foreign stockpiles are older systems, they could still take down slower-moving, low-altitude civilian aircraft.  Often times these stocks are poorly secured -- creating a proliferation threat.  Moreover, thousands of systems are estimated to be outside of government control, either already in the hands of terrorists or available for their acquisition.  We estimate that since the 1970s, over 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS, causing 25 crashes and over 600 deaths around the world.


The Department of State is deeply concerned about the threat posed by MANPADS and has been taking specific actions in this regard.  MANPADS reduction is the administration's highest priority for conventional arms control.

In 2001, the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SA/LW) Destruction program was created within the Department of State.  The program has been appropriated $27.589 million since that time.  For this relatively small amount of money, this program has had substantial success, destroying over 800,000 weapons and 80 million pieces of ammunition.

However, since the 2003 attempted shoot-down by al-Qaida of an Israeli airliner, the State Department has focused much of its SA/LW destruction program on MANPADS, taking the lead in a broad-based interagency effort.  Over fiscal years 2004 and 2005 approximately 80% of available SA/LW destruction resources funded MANPADS-related activities and most of my SA/LW staff's time has focused on this issue.

Our efforts have resulted in successes.  Since 2003 we have led a broad-based, interagency effort that has destroyed or disabled over 18,500 systems in 17 countries, with firm commitments for over 5,000 more.  Additional funds transferred from the Nonproliferation Defense Fund and our interagency partners enabled achieve[ment of] these results.  While most of these efforts have been bilateral programs, we do consider multilateral efforts, as I have noted.

While most of our programs have been bilateral in nature, we have also used our funds to leverage international support for the destruction of MANPADS and small arms and light weapons in various multilateral efforts.  The Bureau of Political Military Affairs, along with our colleagues in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau, are managing lead-nation activities for the NATO-Partnership for Peace Trust Fund Project to Destroy Munitions, Small Arms and Light Weapons and MANPADS in Ukraine.  Twelve other countries and the European Union have joined us with financial support for this project.  We are supporting similar programs in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.

Many of our most significant accomplishments cannot be discussed in this venue.  However, I can outline a few successes:

-- We have worked with Cambodia to destroy its known government holdings of 233 MANPADS missiles.

-- In Bosnia and Herzegovina we facilitated the destruction of almost 6,000 missiles in government stockpiles.

-- In February of this year we assisted Hungary in the destruction of 1,540 SA-7 missiles.

-- The Ukraine project will result in the destruction of at least 1,000 MANPADS, and will commence this spring.

-- In 2003 President [Enrique] Bolanos promised President Bush that Nicaragua would destroy all of its MANPADS.  The USG provided assistance to destroy 1,000 MANPADS, approximately half of the country's stocks, and continues to work with the government of Nicaragua to destroy the rest.

Leakage from poorly secured government stocks is a major source of black-market weapons.  Appropriate physical security and stockpile management procedures for MANPADS are necessary to prevent this.  The Department works closely with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to assist countries in strengthening the physical security of the systems they maintain for their defense needs.

In addition to our destruction efforts, the Department works in several international fora to obtain agreement with countries to strengthen controls over the export of MANPADS and to improve the management and security of their own military stocks.  In 2003, the Wassenaar Arrangement adopted strengthened guidelines for control over MANPADS transfers.  Similar guidelines were adopted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2004), The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (2004) and the Organization of American States (2005).  In all, over 95 countries have agreed to adopt measures that ensure the standards established are put in place.  In all of these and other regional fora the Department continues to emphasize the need for rigorous implementation.

We also have sought to reduce proliferation through bilateral cooperation in areas other than destruction.  Most notably in February of 2005, Secretary Rice and Russian Minister of Defense [Sergei] Ivanov signed the "U.S.-Russia Arrangement on Cooperation in Enhancing Control of MANPADS."  Key elements of this arrangement include mutual assistance in destroying excess and obsolete MANPADS; exchange of information on controlling MANPADS, including improving measures to enhance physical security; and sharing of information about MANPADS sales and transfers to third countries.


The Department continues to work closely with other agencies, departments, and countries to improve our coordinated response to the international MANPADS threat.  However, planning and prioritizing is a recurring fiscal challenge when factoring in the political will, or lack thereof, for another country to agree to MANPADS destruction.  We have been constrained in our current programs by the disconnect between a one-year budget process and the often multi-year challenges of negotiating and implementing destruction agreements.  In some countries we have had to negotiate for years to secure a diplomatic agreement to start destruction, whereas in others we have been offered MANPADS for destruction and forced to scramble for resources to cover associated costs.

The administration greatly appreciates the flexibility provided to the SA/LW program through the existing ability to use SA/LW funds, notwithstanding any other provision of law.  This authority, if granted in the current Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining, and Related Programs [NADR] funding line for Small Arms and Light Weapons Destruction would allow the Department to maintain an important tool in responding to conventional weapons problems.  The Department looks forward to working with Congress to develop the most effective and responsive MANPADS and Conventional Weapons threat reduction program possible and to ensure that this program is adequately resourced in the context of all of our global responsibilities.  We are comfortable that, using the existing NADR account as well as the NDF where and when appropriate, we will have sufficient resources to achieve all program objectives through FY 2007.


In closing, I reiterate that addressing the threat posed by the proliferation of MANPADS is a priority for the administration.  The Department is committed to continue its work and improve its response.  Your leadership in this area is greatly appreciated.  Again I thank for the opportunity to be here today and am happy to address your questions.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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