Stimson Logo - 3002 Bytes
Home About Us What's New Search Publications Projects
The Nuclear Roundtable
Project Home About the Project Events Documents Links


Weapons of Mass Destruction and Cooperative Threat Reduction
Senator Richard G. Lugar

This is the full text of the Senator's written remarks at the Roundtable

April 29, 1996

I am grateful for the invitation from the Stimson Center to address the Nuclear Roundtable.

Having spent much of last week negotiating a resolution of ratification to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was reported out of the Foreign Relations Committee by a 13 to 5 vote last Thursday, my appearance today before the Roundtable seems like a natural extension of my Committee deliberations.

I want to speak to you today about the need for a national security strategy that responds appropriately to the post-Cold War threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and nuclear -- and some legislative efforts that Senator Nunn, Senator Domenici and I are considering for developing and promoting such a strategy.

Senator Nunn and I have held a series of hearing throughout 1995 and 1996 dealing with the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction. The results of those hearings may be summarized in three basic propositions:

1. Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, materials, and know-how are now more available to terrorists and rogue nations than at any other time in our history;

2. Several nations and subnational groups are actively seeking a WMD capability for potential use against the United States or its allies; and

3. domestically, we here in the United States are simply not equipped to manage the crisis posed by the threatened use of such weapons, or to manage the consequences of such use against civilian populations.

Much has been written and said about the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, but relatively little strategic thinking has gone into appropriate responses to such threats.

In my view, the potential costs of ignoring the threats and problems associated with the spread of weapons of mass destruction are so enormous that they demand a national mission on par with the Manhattan Project -- Manhattan II. We need to assemble the best minds, with massive resources, to come up with, in a relatively short period of time, the kinds of technical tools that will allow our policy makers to develop truly credible responses and plans in the areas of nonproliferation and counter proliferation.

Let me describe some of the thinking that has gone into our efforts to craft a legislative response and strategy to the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We believe in the need for an inter-disciplinary approach to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that will address the continuum of threat from Tomsk to Topeka.

There are three basic elements or components to our legislative approach. The first component stems from the recognition that much of the current effort to deal with the threat crosscuts numerous federal departments and agencies and highlights the need for the creation of a national coordinator for non-proliferation and counter-proliferation policy in order to provide a more strategic and coordinated vision and response.

The second component addresses the supply side of these materials, weapons and know-how in the states of the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Building on our prior Nunn-Lugar/CTR experience, and recognizing that it is far more effective, and less expensive, to prevent WMD proliferation in the first place than to face such weapons on the battlefield or the playground, our legislative approach includes countermeasures intended to firm up border and export controls, measures to promote and support counter-proliferation research and development, and enhanced efforts to prevent the brain-drain of lethal know-how to rogue states and terrorist groups.

The third and last major component stems from the recognition that we cannot afford to rely on a policy of prevention and deterrence alone, and therefore must prudently move forward with mechanisms to enhance preparedness domestically for not only nuclear but chemical and biological incidents.

I would caution that we are in the preliminary stages of our legislative thinking but let me describe briefly the legislative and programmatic thrust of each component.

I. National Nonproliferation/Counter proliferation Coordinator. There is a broad consensus that WMD proliferation is now, and will remain for the foreseeable future, the top threat to U.S. national security interests. Yet the American response to this proliferation threat remains scattered and unfocused. The present non-proliferation and counter-proliferation efforts include dozens of departments and agencies that have responsibilities in one way or another to protect the United States from such threats. This patchwork effort suffers from lack of coordination, overlap, and duplication.

To complicate matters further, the threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction and the involvement of organized criminal groups in the smuggling of WMD materials commands the attention of an even broader array of U.S. governmental assets. The investigation of the Aum Shinrikyo activities in the chemical weapons area by Senator Nunn and the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations demonstrated how these issues can fall through the cracks of the U.S. Government. The very nature of the WMD threat demands not just the attention of our armed services and diplomatic corps, but also our law enforcement community, our scientific community, and our intelligence community.

In my view, our nation's nonproliferation effort is in need of a strategic and coordinated government-wide plan.

In order to best address the crosscutting nature of the proliferation challenge, we would propose to establish the position of the National Nonproliferation Coordinator who will be charged with coordinating policies and activities to combat the threat posed by WMD both domestically and internationally. The Coordinator will review the budgets of all agencies with programs in nonproliferation, counter proliferation, and related areas of intelligence and law enforcement. Ideally, the Coordinator will have transfer authority to best utilize our resources against proliferation threats. The Office of the Coordinator will have a staff which will be augmented with nonproliferation and counter proliferation experts detailed from the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Energy, Commerce, the Intelligence Community, and such other agencies as may contribute to the mission of the National Coordinator.

To support a comprehensive approach to nonproliferation, the National Coordinator should chair a new Committee on Proliferation, Crime, and Terrorism, to be established within the National Security Council. That committee shall include the Secretaries of State, Defense, Justice, Energy, the DCI, and other department and agency heads the President deems necessary. This Committee within the National Security Council will serve as the focal point for all government nonproliferation, counter proliferation, law enforcement, intelligence, counter-terrorism, and other efforts to combat threats to the United States posed by weapons of mass destruction.

This would codify statutorily the Administration's recent decision to implement the Aspin-Brown Commission recommendation regarding an NSC Committee on global crime issues, to supplement another newly created Committee within the NSC -- i.e., the Committee on Foreign Intelligence.

Additionally, despite all the efforts of the government devoted to the proliferation threat, there are significant gaps in the Government's information on critical nonproliferation and counter proliferation issues. This gap is particularly problematic with respect to the intersection of key issues such as proliferation, terrorism and crime. For example, the two-year investigation of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed a paucity of information on international organized crime and its impact on U.S. security. Additionally, the Subcommittee discovered that our knowledge about Central Asia -- the Southern Tier of the former Soviet Union and a potential hotbed of proliferation problems -- was scattered and incomplete at best.

To help close such kinds of gaps in information and policy expertise, the National Nonproliferation Coordinator should establish a Center for Proliferation, Crime and Terrorism Analysis which would conduct research to fill the void of information on these and related issues.

II. The second component of our legislative effort will focus on further constricting the supply side of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Since the destruction of the Soviet Union, the Nunn-Lugar or Cooperative Threat Reduction program and related initiatives have sought to address the threat to U.S. security posed by the nuclear weapons, scientists and materials of the former Soviet Union. The mission to secure these nuclear assets, as well as their chemical and biological equivalents, is unfinished.

In the new legislation we will seek to capitalize on the progress achieved in dismantling nuclear weapons of the former Soviet states and in preventing the flight of weapons scientists over the past five years and to expand the core mission of the program so as to address strategically the emerging WMD threats that compromise our domestic security. The resources that will be required to implement programs proposed in the new legislation are not intended to supplant, but rather to supplement, current Nunn-Lugar funding levels.

More specifically:

1. Cooperative programs with the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy and the Ministry of Defense to improve the protection, control and accounting of nuclear materials must be accelerated and expanded to encompass all of the nuclear facilities that handle sensitive nuclear materials and components. Presently there exists a window of opportunity in which several additional labs and facilities appear willing to cooperate in the lab-to-lab program. This expanded effort might even include some facilities outside the "Nuclear Four" of the former Soviet Union where significant quantities of nuclear materials and expertise are housed.

2. The security of nuclear materials during transportation between nuclear facilities must receive greater attention. Transportation risks will grow as more nuclear warheads are disassembled and their materials are shipped to interim or permanent storage sites.

3. Greater programmatic emphasis needs to be placed on safeguarding highly enriched uranium fuel used in Russian naval propulsion. Given the possession by the Russian Navy of large quantities of HEU, we need to accelerate and expand our programs with the Russian Navy to encompass all unirradiated enriched uranium fuels used for ship propulsion, including submarines, icebreakers, cruisers, and related training, testing and research facilities.

4. We need to get on with the business of closing down plutonium production facilities in Russia. Russia agreed to a U.S. proposal to cease plutonium production for weapons but action has been stymied by the fact that the three reactors in question also produce heat and electricity. These reactors can be converted so that they can no longer produce weapons-grade plutonium while permitting them to continue to produce heat and electricity. Such core conversion projects can advance a major U.S. nonproliferation objective to end the production of plutonium for weapons. At minimum, we need to allocate funds for the design, testing and safety analysis that must be completed before implementation of such core conversion can begin.

5. In order to expand our transparency program efforts with the Russians related to both warhead dismantlement as well as confirmation of inventories of materials resulting from the dismantlement process, we need to undertake new efforts to evaluate technologies and techniques to verify that weapons are being dismantled and to verify the quantities of nuclear materials from disassembled warheads.

6. And lastly, in the area of securing weapons and materials, it is time to make a concerted effort at chemical and biological threat reduction. Opportunities do exist to secure materials that can be used to make chemical and biological weapons, and we need to determine the feasibility and priority of moving beyond nuclear threat reduction and beyond chemical-weapons demilitarization efforts to explore possibilities for improving security for chemical and biological weapons materials.

In addition to enhanced efforts to secure the weapons and materials of mass destruction, we must recognize that the combination of organized crime, porous borders, severe economic dislocation and corruption in the states of the former Soviet Union has greatly increased the risk that lethal materials of mass destruction as well as the know-how for producing them can pass rather easily through the borders of the former Soviet Union. While much of the risk still resides in the four nuclear states of the former Soviet Union, there is also great risk in the states of the Southern Tier and the Caucasus. This region shares common borders with nations in the Middle East and poses a substantial smuggling threat.

Although Nunn-Lugar programs have begun to offer training and equipment to establish controls on borders and exports throughout the former Soviet Union, much more needs to be done. Much of the training that is done by the U.S. Customs Service will lapse this year. Moreover, while programs designed to keep weapons scientists from being recruited by rogue states or terrorist groups have met with some success, they address only part of the problem.

III. The third component of our draft legislation concerns Domestic Preparedness for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. Our hearings have demonstrated that the United States is woefully unprepared for domestic terrorist incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. Although recent Presidential Decision Directives address the coordination of both crisis and consequence management of a WMD incident, the Federal Government has done too little to prepare for a nuclear threat or nuclear detonation on American soil, and even less for a biological or chemical threat or incident.

This is particularly true with regard to the training and equipping of the local "first responders" -- the firemen, police, emergency management teams, and medical personnel who will be on the front lines if deterrence and prevention of such incidents fail. Several common-sense measures could greatly improve our readiness to cope with a domestic incident involving weapons of mass destruction.

Almost all of the expertise in defending against and acting in response to such threats and their execution resides in the Department of Defense which has worked to protect our armed forces against chemical and biological attack. It is our belief that this expertise must be utilized and can be utilized without infringing on DoD's major missions or our civil liberties.

1. The United States has no quick response team for chemical or biological terrorism, as it does for nuclear emergencies -- that is, NEST. We need to develop the CW and BW equivalents of NEST -- that is, CW and BW terrorism response capabilities to support federal agency responsibilities and the Federal Response Plan.

2. A review of exercises to test the preparedness of the federal response to WMD terrorism has found serious deficiencies, particularly with respect to full-field exercises and implementation of agency responsibilities as set down in the Presidential Decision Directive. To improve inter-agency coordination, it is imperative that the FBI and FEMA initiate a program of exercises involving local and state officials.

3. The Defense Department is equipped to counter CW and BW on the battlefield. We need to have DoD task its chemical and biological defense facilities and experts to train local and federal response officials in CW and BW preparedness and to train such officials in crisis and consequence management.

4. There is an urgent need for deployable equipment to assist early responders to deal with chemical and biological agents.

IV. Conclusion. In my view, it is time to go beyond a recitation of the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to start developing an appropriate strategic, coordinated response. We know what the threats and the problems are. We even have the knowledge and expertise to deal constructively with these threats.

The real question is whether the political will exists to develop and implement a national security strategy that responds appropriately to the post-Cold War threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

That question will have to be answered in both Washington and Moscow, and the likely responses are less than clear. Pre-election nationalistic fervor is blinding Russian officials to cooperative threat reduction programs that are surely in the Russian national security interest. In Moscow, the outcome of the June presidential elections will help to shape the answer. But even if Boris Yeltsin is reelected, the Russian side will simply have to cease creating bottlenecks to the timely implementation of the current threat reduction program.

And in Washington, the national security debate might be dominated once again by ballistic missile defense -- hopefully not to the exclusion of consideration of our first lines of defense against the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Opposition in the Congress to further cooperative threat reduction in the nuclear field as well as to its extension to the biological and chemical fields could be strong -- and, in my judgement, extremely shortsighted. History will be unforgiving to us if the requisite political will to deal with the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction emerges only after the first incident involving weapons of mass destruction has occurred on American soil.


The Stimson Center, Press Release Senator Richard G. Lugar, April 29, 1996, Washington, D.C.

The Nuclear Roundtable, with former Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock, April 3, 1996, Washington, D.C.

The Nuclear Roundtable with Dr. Ashton B. Carter, Department of Defense, November 16, 1995, Washington, D.C.

The Nuclear Roundtable, US-Russian Relations After the Duma Elections, with Alexander Yereskovsky, Embassy of the Russian Federation, and Rodney Jones and Leonard Spector, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 4, 1996, Washington, D.C.

House of Representatives. Prepared Testimony on Cooperative Threat Reduction, Dr. Harold P. Smith, Jr., Asst. Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, November 14, 1995.

Senate. Senator Sam Nunn. Statement at the Beginning of Hearings on Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear Materials, Subcommittee on Investigations, March 13, 1996

Moscow Nuclear Safety and Security Summit Declaration, April 20, 1996, Moscow, Russia

The Nuclear Roundtable, with Robert Bell, National Security Council, March 18, 1995, Washington, D.C.

House of Representatives. Testimony of Michael Krepon, President, Henry L. Stimson Center, For Hearings on Ballistic Missile Defense, National Security Committee, 14 March 1995.

Stimson Issue Brief: "Bipartisian Progress" ACDA, Nunn-Lugar and Ballistic Missile Defense Funding, February 26, 1996

US Congressional statements on ballistic missile defense: in the House and in the Senate

Nunn-Lugar / Cooperative Threat Reduction Program: US-Russian cooperation in dismantling Cold War nuclear weapons stockpile.

Return to the Nuclear Roundtable Homepage

| Home | About Us | What's New | Search | Publications | Projects |