New arms control director has influence in a quiet sort of way. His specialty is arms talks - not bureaucratic cat-and-mouse games
Maj. Gen. William Burns, the new director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), does not have the visibility - or political clout - of his predecessor, Kenneth Adelman. But he has brought a quiet professionalism to the agency and is making a contribution to the administration's efforts to negotiate a strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty (START).Skip to next paragraph
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After almost three months in office, General Burns is viewed as playing a larger role in providing technical support for the START and space and defense negotiations and less of a role as an independent player in the bureaucratic struggle for the President's heart and soul.
``Burns has enough technical expertise to be helpful so ACDA under him plays a greater role,'' says Dimitri Simes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Burns, a soft-spoken man with a quiet, direct manner, says he wants the agency to be more involved in the process of developing disarmament positions.
``ACDA should originate ideas not just react,'' he says. It should ``not just be the conduit of instructions and ideas developed by others. The ACDA director has been in the past [and] will be in the future a direct participant in the negotiating process.''
And at present? ``I was an active participant in the negotiating process at the [Moscow] summit,'' replies the former general, who retired from the military to accept the post of director.
Burns comes to his job with considerable experience, having held a number of command and staff jobs in the US Army. Knowledgeable about arms control, he represented the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the US delegation to the INF (intermediate-range nuclear arms treaty) negotiations from their inception in 1981. Before his ACDA appointment he was principal deputy assistant secretary of state in the State Department's bureau of political and military affairs.
Since its founding in 1961, ACDA has had an ambivalent history. Whenever its director led the arms control negotiations - as Gerard Smith did on SALT I and Paul Warnke did on SALT II - the agency tended to be more powerful. But there have been periods when it has seemed almost a stepchild, giving way to the larger and more established arms control bureaucracies at the State and Defense Departments.
Mr. Adelman managed to increase the agency's personnel and budget. A genial, articulate former diplomat and teacher, he made himself widely known, working lawmakers on Capitol Hill and meeting frequently with the news media. A strong conservative, he became an independent player in the bureaucracy with an independent constituency - the conservative right that is skeptical of the strategic arms reduction negotiations and fiercely supports President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.
By comparison, General Burns has adopted a low profile. But ironically, by giving up such a publicly assertive role, ACDA may acquire more influence in the experts' talks on nitty-gritty START issues. Some think Burns can serve as a potential bridge between the negotiators and the armed services, having had close ties with the joint chiefs and being a former military officer himself.