05.19.05

Schiff Amendments Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction

Mr. Chairman, at the outset I want to recognize the superb work of the gentleman from Illinois (Chairman Hyde), and say that I think the gentleman is going to have to endure a number of valedictory speeches over the next year and a half. If one Member spoke for each year that the gentleman has served in this House, that would entitle us to 32 accolade speeches during the next year and a half. So be prepared. We are extremely grateful for all of your work. With our ranking member, we could not have two more talented members at the helm of the Committee on International Relations.

I also want to express a personal thanks for the willingness of the chairman and the ranking member to include several of my amendments to this bill in the markup.

Two weeks ago, terrorists struck in the heart of one of the world's great cities, London. The weapons they used, simple knapsacks filled with a few pounds of high explosive, caused a devastating loss of life and again highlighted our vulnerability to terrorism.

But what if terrorists had released a biological agent into London's underground? What if they had used a van with a stolen Russian nuclear weapon or nuclear material to cripple London's central business district?

The amendments I offered in committee addressed three critical areas in the fight to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction: security of nuclear weapons and material, expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative, and redirecting the efforts of scientists formerly employed as part of the Soviet Union's biological warfare establishment. 
   
While the United States has stringent controls on our nuclear weapons and weapons materials, security in other countries is less exacting.

My first amendment calls upon the President to work with the international community to improve the security of weapons and materials and to urge international support for the IAEA's proposals to strengthen the security of nuclear materials.

My second amendment urges the President to strengthen the 2-year-old Proliferation Security Initiative by seeking a treaty, UN Security Council resolution, or other agreement expressly authorizing interdiction of illicit WMD technology and materials. While I believe that existing international law justifies the Proliferation Security Initiative, there are states that are reluctant to participate in the program without the expressed sanction.

The third amendment requests a report by the Secretary of State on the feasibility, potential contributions, and desirability of employing former Soviet biological weapons scientists in developing biomedical countermeasures. Diverting the expertise of weapons scientists in the former Soviet Union is crucial to preventing the proliferation of WMD.

And, again, I am grateful to the chairman and ranking member for the inclusion of these amendments and all their efforts to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction.