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Recommendations from ASU law professor become U.S. law

January 16, 2014

A set of recommendations made by ASU law professor Orde Kittrie in a January 2013 book chapter were signed into law on Dec. 26 by President Obama, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.

The book, titled "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East," was co-authored by Kittrie and four other experts on preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. In a statement introducing the provision, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) thanked Kittrie and his coauthors for having “served as the inspiration for this legislation.”

Kittrie was lead author of the book’s chapter titled, “Cooperative Nonproliferation Programs Applicable to the Middle East.” In the chapter, Kittrie observes that many officials and experts in the Middle East and North Africa recognize the growing danger of extremists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and are interested in strengthening regional cooperation – including across the Arab/Israeli divide. 

The chapter explains that while the need for and interest in such regional cooperation is growing, U.S. support for such cooperation has been shrinking. The chapter identifies several cooperative nonproliferation projects with a proven track record of success in the Middle East and North Africa that have recently been cut for lack of relatively small amounts of funding.

The book also characterizes existing U.S. cooperative threat reduction projects in the Middle East and North Africa as poorly coordinated, lacking in creativity and insufficiently results-oriented. The chapter states that “it is imperative for the United States to develop and implement a comprehensive nonproliferation strategy for the Middle East,” and includes specific recommendations for how such a strategy could improve coordination and ensure that programs are more effective and results-oriented.

In May, Shaheen introduced a bill to turn these recommendations into law. In her Congressional Record statement introducing S. 1021, the “Next Generation Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 2013,” Shaheen described the purpose of her bill as “requir[ing] the president to establish a multi-year comprehensive and well-resourced regional assistance strategy to coordinate and advance cooperative threat reduction and related nonproliferation efforts in one of the most critical regions to U.S. national security interests: the Middle East and North Africa.” 

Shaheen’s Congressional Record statement introducing the bill also offered “special thanks to the co-chairs of the Project on U.S. Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy, including David Albright, Mark Dubowitz, Orde Kittrie, Leonard Spector and Michael Yaffe, whose report, ‘U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East,’ served as the inspiration for this legislation.”

Shaheen’s bill was signed into law on Dec. 26 as section 1304 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. Section 1304 is titled “Strategy to Modernize Cooperative Threat Reduction and Prevent the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Related Materials in the Middle East and North Africa Region.”

In Section 1304, the new law requires the secretary of defense to establish a comprehensive nonproliferation strategy to advance cooperative efforts with Middle East and North African governments to “reduce the threat from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials.” The strategy and a plan for implementation of it must be submitted to Congress by March 31. Section 1304 also includes detailed requirements for the strategy, including how it must address gaps and improve coordination and effectiveness. 

Coincidentally, Section 1303 of the same new law, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, extends by three years a different provision which professor Kittrie developed in 2008 as the sole attorney serving on a National Academies of Science commission, which recommended that provision in its report titled Global Security Engagement: A New Model for Cooperative Threat Reduction. Section 1303 is titled “Extension of Authority for Utilization of Contributions to the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.” It provides special authority facilitating foreign contributions to cooperative threat reduction programs.

Kittrie is a leading expert on nonproliferation law and policy issues. Prior to joining the ASU law faculty, Kittrie served for 11 years in legal and policy positions at the U.S. Department of State. As the department's lead attorney for nuclear affairs, he participated in negotiating five U.S.-Russia nuclear nonproliferation agreements and a U.N. treaty to combat nuclear terrorism. From 2008 to 2012, Kittrie served as chair of the Nonproliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament group of the American Society of International Law. He has also testified on nonproliferation issues before both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.