Schiff, Fortenberry Launch Congressional Nuclear Security Caucus

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Thursday, May 01, 2008 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff, Fortenberry Launch Congressional Nuclear Security Caucus

Former Rep. Tim Roemer and Graham Allison featured at inaugural event

WASHINGTON, DC – Recognizing that a potential nuclear event is one of the greatest threats to our national security, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) established the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Nuclear Security today.  Drawing from leading congressional, executive, and private sector initiatives on nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and homeland security, the caucus will seek to identify the most urgent vulnerabilities and take immediate action to improve nuclear safeguards, secure fissile materials, and prevent the misuse of sensitive nuclear materials and technologies.

“Nuclear terrorism is a threat so serious in its consequences that we often shrink from contemplating it,” Schiff said.   “But ignoring the problem will not make it go away – in fact, ignoring the possibility of terrorists getting hold of nuclear material or a device makes that awful prospect more likely to happen.  This caucus is going to confront the problem head-on.  We will work to raise awareness and work to implement changes in our national security policy so we never have to deal with the terrifying consequences of a nuclear event.”

“The horrific consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion in America are unfathomable,” Fortenberry said.  “Yet, it is becoming easier to access the technical information and materials necessary to do devastating harm.  It is my hope that this new working group will add momentum to nuclear threat reduction.”

At today’s kickoff event, Reps. Schiff and Fortenberry were joined by former Rep. Tim Roemer and Graham Allison.  Mr. Roemer, who served on the 9/11 commission, is currently president of the Center for National Policy (CNP) which seeks to promote innovation and bipartisan dialogue on the strategic and operational challenges facing America – including the nuclear threat. Mr. Roemer briefed the caucus on the CNP’s “Nuclear Security Study Group” which is an effort to bring together members of Congress, experts, and the public on the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose fissile nuclear material.

“I really commend Rep. Schiff and Rep. Fortenberry for taking the lead in creating the Congressional Caucus on Nuclear Security,” said former Rep. Tim Roemer, president of the Center for National Policy.  “Not only have they identified a major threat to our country that must be a high priority at the moment, as noted recently by several high-ranking government officials, but they are seeking to address this challenge in a bipartisan way. We learned on the 9/11 Commission that this is the only way to succeed in an undertaking of such a serious national security magnitude. I look forward working with the members of the Caucus in order to make it effective and proactive in protecting America from nuclear terrorism.”  

Mr. Allison is the founding dean of Harvard’s Modern John F. Kennedy School of Government, a former top Pentagon official, and one of America’s leading scholars of nuclear strategy and national security.  At the caucus launch he spoke about some of the finding in his book Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe.

Congressman Schiff has been a leading voice in Congress on efforts to secure vulnerable stockpiles of weapons materials.  In the last year, Congressman Schiff introduced several bipartisan bills which would reduce the threat of a nuclear disaster.  The first, the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act, would strengthen efforts in the Department of Homeland Security to develop techniques for “fingerprinting” nuclear material.  The second aims to prevent nations that violate and then withdraw from the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) from keeping nuclear materials or technology obtained through the treaty.  The third bill Rep. Schiff introduced in this Congress, the Ending Nuclear Trafficking Act, seeks to bolster efforts to deter and prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists by making nuclear trafficking a crime against humanity.

In the 109th Congress, he introduced legislation to expand the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and establish an Office of Nonproliferation Programs in the Executive Office of the President.  In April 2004, Rep. Schiff introduced H.R. 4212 which would have created a Presidential Task Force within the Department of Energy to focus on an immediate strategy to secure nuclear material around the world.  He also introduced legislation (H.R. 2063) to expand the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program to include countries outside the former Soviet Union, such as Pakistan, India, North Korea, China, Iran and Iraq in May of 2003.  That same month, he joined Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) in offering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen the United States' efforts to safeguard or destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials around the world.