Once again there has been a long and bitter fight in the Senate over the President's nominee for Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Like Paul Warnke in 1977, Kenneth Adelman has now been confirmed, but by such a narrow margin-and with such substantial political baggage-as to cripple his ability to manage the agency and promote its objectives.
The Adelman dispute is only the latest chapter in the agency's stormy history. Born in controversy in 1961, ACDA has been a headache for every President since John F. Kennedy. Repeatedly purged, always distrusted, criticized by its friends, savaged by its enemies, the agency has been the center of turmoil and discord for more than 20 years. These controversies reached new peaks of viciousness in the 1980s, however, and after cuts of nearly one-fourth in the agency's staff and one-half in its research budget, the firing of Eugene Rostow, the first director appointed by President Reagan, delays of two years or more in appointments to most of its executive positions, and the present director's inauspicious beginning, there is little question that ACDA is in no position to fulfill its responsibilities effectively.
The factors which have weakened ACDA's ability to serve as an effective voice for, and implementer of, the nation's arms control policies have existed since the agency's creation. They are structural in character, consequences of the ambivalence which dominated the reasoning behind, and thus the design of, the agency and its relationships with other executive organs. From its inception, ACDA was supposed to be both an integral part of the executive branch and a watchdog over its activities; a component of the State Department and an independent agency reporting directly to the President; a promoter of the modest idea of arms control and a partisan for the radical policy of disarmament. These contradictions are neither trivial nor transitory. They represent immutable conflicts-characteristics which can coexist only in the most artificial and unstable circumstances. Little wonder that the agency has been consistently beset by
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