01.09.07

Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this bill, which is long overdue and I commend the Speaker and other members of the Leadership for making this a priority.

One of the most important findings of the 9/11 Commission was that the failure to anticipate the attack was a “failure of imagination.”  The idea of such an assault was so abhorrent that it was difficult to think about. We cannot know for sure what form a future attack may take, but as we struggle to prevent it, we must be willing to consider the most horrific possibility: a nuclear or biological attack on an American city. The idea of 100,000 people killed in an instant, is an idea too terrible to contemplate, but to ignore this threat, or fail to act upon it with the greatest urgency, is to be grossly, criminally negligent with our Nation's security. Osama bin Laden has termed the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction “a religious duty.” He has called for an American Hiroshima. This is his Mein Kampf.

H.R. 1 includes many of the best ideas from around the country on how to combat nuclear terrorism. But the one fundamental idea is that we must prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or material, because once they are acquired, it may be too late.

Programs throughout the government are struggling to secure nuclear weapons and materials around the world, and prevent nuclear trafficking. But there is little overall organization of these efforts. That's why our bill establishes a Coordinator for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in the Office of the President. The Coordinator will formulate and coordinate a comprehensive strategy for U.S.nonproliferation activities, oversee all nonproliferation and nuclear terrorism prevention programs, and advise the President and congress on the progress that each program is making.

To assist the Coordinator, this bill establishes a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission to assess the current state of U.S.nonproliferation and nuclear terrorism prevention activities, develop a clear, comprehensive strategy, and identify the areas in which accelerated effort is most urgent.

Currently, the President must certify that Russia is meeting certain conditions before authorizing the release of Cooperative Threat Reduction funds. This has caused delays in shielding vulnerable weapons when the President was unable to fully certify Russia. This bill removes those restrictions, granting the President more flexibility in negotiations with Russia. It also gives the President the flexibility to direct Cooperative Threat Reduction funds outside of Russiawhen necessary.

The bill will strengthen the Global Threat Reduction Program, to accelerate the global clean-out of the most vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear material. At the current pace, cleaning up the most vulnerable nuclear sites around the globe will take more than a decade. Given al Qaeda’s desire for these weapons, how can we be assured that we will have this much time?  We can't.

The bill also urges the President to expand the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international program to intercept weapons of mass destruction shipments. It encourages joint training exercises, particularly with China and Russia, to strengthen our cooperation on security issues, and encourage them to adopt strict standards for WMD security. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 broached the idea of international standards for securing nuclear material, but was brief on the specifics. Now the U.S.must take the lead in establishing those standards, through organizations like the Proliferation Security Initiative.

I hope everyone can support this long-awaited overhaul to our anti-nuclear-terrorism efforts.