Thursday, January 22, 2009

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on Preventing WMD Proliferation and Terrorism

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on Preventing WMD Proliferation and Terrorism

Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: January 22, 2009

Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following opening statement concerning today’s hearing on Preventing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Proliferation and Terrorism:

“Good morning. I’d like to start by welcoming my colleague, Representative John McHugh from New York, to his first hearing as Ranking Member of this committee. I’d also like to extend a warm welcome to Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent and to Dr. Graham Allison. Thank you all for being here today – and for your hard work on the Commission dealing with the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Proliferation and Terrorism.

“This committee was instrumental in the creation of the Commission in the 9-11 bill, and the Commission’s recent report could not be more timely. This committee authorizes the bulk of key U.S. non-proliferation programs, and our subcommittee on Terrorism and Unconventional Threats, chaired by Adam Smith, also looks broadly at issues of terrorism and counter-proliferation. We will begin the annual process of reviewing these programs when the budget is released this spring.

“The risks associated with the proliferation of WMD, particularly the risk that such weapons could fall into terrorist hands, are some of the gravest threats facing our country. Since the end of the Cold War, the world has experienced a new era of proliferation.

“In the last eight years alone, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon and expanded its nuclear arsenal; Iran has rapidly developed capabilities that may enable it to build nuclear weapons; authorities uncovered a far-reaching nuclear nonproliferation network run by Dr. A.Q. Khan of Pakistan; nuclear arms rivalries have intensified in Asia and the Middle East; changes in civil nuclear power programs have challenged the nonproliferation regime; the spread of biotechnology has increased the availability of pathogens and technologies for sinister purposes; and dangerous chemical, nuclear, radiological, and biological materials have remained poorly secured throughout the world.

“At the same time, terrorism has spread around the globe, and Pakistan has experienced rapid political change and internal economic and security challenges while terrorist safe havens have grown in its border areas.

“Yet U.S. policy and strategy have not kept pace with the growing risks associated with WMD proliferation and terrorism, and have failed to fully address the serious WMD concerns raised by the 9-11 Commission. Nonproliferation and threat reduction programs and activities have been under resourced and remain too narrow in scope; engagement with other countries and international regimes on WMD threats has been insufficient; and the inter-agency process has lacked the leadership, coordination, flexibility and innovation necessary to effectively address these threats. This must change.

“This committee has already taken a number of important steps on U.S. non-proliferation and threat reduction programs that have moved these programs in the right direction. However, there are additional opportunities to address WMD threats.

“The U.S. must do what we can to secure and reduce WMD and vulnerable WMD-usable material around the world, and to reduce the risk that such dangerous weapons and material could ever fall into terrorist hands. However, while we must do more, the fact remains that we inevitably will be required to make difficult assessments of risk in order to prioritize our efforts. I look forward to the Commission’s recommendations in this regard.”


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