Founded in 1971, the Arms Control Association (ACA) describes itself as a “non-partisan” membership organization “dedicated to promoting public understanding of, and support for, effective arms control policies.” Lobbying for the total nuclear disarmament of every nation on earth—particularly the United States—ACA periodically holds events such as seminars, luncheons, and press conferences where its representatives discuss matters related to international security and military arsenals. It also produces the monthly publication Arms Control Today, which provides policymakers, the media, and the general public with what ACA calls “authoritative information, analysis and commentary on arms control proposals, negotiations and agreements, and [other] national security issues.”
ACA’s reaction to a 1983 dispute between the United States and the Soviet Union provided a revealing window into the Association’s priorities. That year, an American spy satellite detected a Siberian-based Soviet radar complex (near Krasnoyarsk) whose configuration suggested that it had a military purpose; this, according to the Reagan administration, constituted a violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT). But ACA, fearing that Reagan’s accusation would undermine hopes for future arms-control agreements with the USSR, dismissed the complex as largely insignificant. Eventually, American authorities confirmed beyond any doubt that the Soviets had indeed violated the ABMT in Krasnoyarsk.
In the 1990s, ACA praised President Bill Clinton for negotiating a nuclear arms accord with North Korea. When reports later emerged, during the George W. Bush administration, that the Koreans, in violation of that agreement, were engaged in the enrichment of uranium, the Association cast doubts on the reports. Further, ACA quoted former State Department official David Straub’s March 2007 assertion that some Bush administration officials were “intent on making policy toward North Korea based on worst-case scenarios about everything.” Ultimately, it was confirmed that the regime in Pyongyang had in fact violated its agreement and produced a nuclear weapon.
Highly critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, ACA accused the Bush administration of willfully misleading the American public concerning Saddam Hussein‘s capacity and intent to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD). “That no such weapons existed,” the Association later reflected, “was less a symptom of flawed intelligence than [of] the U.S. leaders’ obsession with achieving regime change in Baghdad and their consequent willingness to distort evidence on WMD toward that end.”
Long opposed to U.S. efforts to develop a missile defense system, ACA in 2004 stated that America’s “unproven” system “offers no reliable, useful shield against the threat it is designed to counter and is worthless in protecting Americans from more real dangers posed by terrorists and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.” ACA executive director Daryl Kimball added that even if the technology could somehow be perfected, the deployment of missile defense would still be ill-advised, on grounds that “an attacker would more likely use means other than a ballistic missile to strike the United States, such as smuggling a weapon inside a ship, because the alternatives would be easier to acquire, more reliable, more accurate, less costly, and offer greater anonymity.”
By 2014, ACA had begun to acknowledge that missile defense might in fact have some utility if “North Korea or Iran actually tests and deploys a long-range ballistic missile that could reach North America,” though the Association was quick to add that “neither nation has [yet] done this.” Maintaining, further, that the reliability of existing Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) for missile defense was “simply inadequate,” ACA cautioned: “Throwing good money after bad at missile defenses that may not defend is no solution. ‘Patching’ inherently unreliable interceptors is not the same thing as redesigning them so they will work. The United States should not field additional long-range missile interceptors on either coast until the current system is redesigned and-most importantly-tested rigorously against realistic targets.”
ACA has long urged America to take a softer stance on Iran’s uranium enrichment programs. In 2013 the Association lauded President Barack Obama for involving the United States—along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom as its negotiating partners—in an effort to forge, with Iran, “a comprehensive, verifiable, long-term agreement” that would “prevent” the latter from developing nuclear weapons. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress in March 2015 about his “profound disagreement” with that prospective deal, ACA accused him of “trying to undermine support for the agreement, in part by exploiting partisan politics in Washington.” And when the accord was eventually finalized in July 2015, ACA celebrated it as a covenant that would “block Iran from building nuclear weapons for at least 15 years” while “radically reduc[ing]” the “potential threat from Iranian ballistic missiles**.” For a detailed overview of the key provisions in the agreement that was struck, click here, here, and here.
**Also in its assessment of the merits of the nuclear agreement with Iran, ACA downplayed the Iranian ballistic missile program as one that, despite “Tehran’s boastful posture,” “has never quite lived up to its reputation.” “Although ‘death to America’ may still be heard during Friday prayers in Tehran,” said the Association, “neither the nuclear warhead nor the delivery vehicle for administering such a blow is being built.”
The aforementioned Daryl Kimball—a 1986 graduate of Miami University of Ohio—has been ACA’s executive director since September 2001. He previously served as executive director of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers, and as director of security programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility. Both of those organizations advocated an American nuclear freeze during the Cold War, a measure that would have frozen Soviet nuclear superiority permanently in place.
Over the years, ACA has received funding from a host of philanthropic organizations including the Blue Moon Fund, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the New-Land Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the Turner Foundation.