Wednesday, July 15, 2009

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on Addressing a New Generation of Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on Addressing a New Generation of Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction
Ike Skelton, Chairman

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2009

Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Department of Energy Nonproliferation Programs and the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program:

“Good morning. I’d like to start by welcoming my colleague, Representative Buck McKeon from California, to his first hearing as Ranking Member of this committee. I’d also like to welcome our witnesses, the Honorable Tom D’Agostino, Undersecretary for Nuclear Security with the Department of Energy and the Department’s Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Dr. Michael Nacht, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs with the Department of Defense. Thank you both for being here today for this important and timely hearing.

“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, expanded its nuclear arsenal, and proliferated WMD technology and expertise to Iran and Syria; Iran has rapidly developed capabilities that may enable it to build nuclear weapons; a far-reaching nuclear nonproliferation network run by Dr. A.Q. Khan of Pakistan was uncovered and dismantled; 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. At the same time, terrorist networks around the globe have taken a deep interest in obtaining and using these materials.

“The Department of Energy nonproliferation programs and the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program undertake critical work to address the serious WMD threats facing our country today and must be a top national security priority. Unfortunately, during the past eight years, these programs have suffered from a lack of effective policy guidance and leadership, as well as programmatic and funding constraints. The 9-11 Commission gave the U.S. a grade “D” on efforts to prevent WMD proliferation and terrorism and emphasized that Congress should provide the resources needed for these efforts as quickly as possible. This committee has taken a number of important steps to address the 9-11 Commission’s concerns and move WMD nonproliferation and threat programs in the right direction in the last two years. The committee has also urged a strong national commitment to reinvigorate these programs and ensure that they are a top national security priority going forward.

“I am pleased that President Obama has now made that commitment and has already undertaken an ambitious effort to ensure that the U.S. does whatever we can to reduce the risk that WMD and related material could ever fall into terrorist hands. This includes an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years, and an effort to expand U.S. cooperation with Russia and pursue new partnerships to lock down sensitive material. In the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010, this committee provided the President with additional funding, new authorities and other tools to further the President’s goals and objectives in this area. This included a $403 million dollar funding increase for Department of Energy nonproliferation programs, and a $30 million dollar funding increase for the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

“Gentlemen, I look forward to hearing about the good work that your Departments are doing, under the new Administration, to address the new generation of WMD threats facing our country. We are especially eager to hear about opportunities that exist to get a jump start on the President’s initiatives. I’d like to remind our members and witnesses that directly following the end of this hearing, we will move to a follow-on classified briefing for members only. And before we begin, I turn to my friend, the Ranking Member Buck McKeon, for any comments he may wish to make.”


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