DEFENSE AGAINST WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION ACT OF 1996
HON. JOHN M. SPRATT, JR.
in the House of Representatives
THURSDAY, JUNE 27, 1996
- Mr. SPRATT. Mr. Speaker, Dhahran is a grim reminder that terrorists today are not only insidious and stealthy but technically sophisticated. It is only a matter of time till they couple their unconventional tactics with unconventional weapons. Terrorists have already released chemical weapons in the Tokyo subways. Biological, and even nuclear weapons, are only a few steps removed, and well within their reach.
- For that reason, I am pleased to sponsor in the House a bill that Senator Nunn, Senator Lugar, and Senator Domenici offered in the Senate this morning as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill. Rep. Bill McCollum, who has a longstanding interest in counter-terrorism, joins me as a cosponsor.
- In the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, we set forth a set of policies to respond to a threat that has emerged and grown with the end of the cold war. We can all be relieved that the risk of nuclear attack by Russia has receded. By the end of this year, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Kazakhstan all should be free of deployed nuclear weapons. But the breakup of the Soviet Union has opened up a storehouse of destructive weapons and components to terrorist groups and nations hostile to the United States. So, ironically, while the risk of nuclear annihilation has become more remote, we find ourselves faced with a growing risk of attacks, albeit limited, by nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.
- We have spent considerable time in the House debating defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles, and it is a pertinent debate about a serious threat. But our focus on ICBMs may have deflected our attention from a far more likely threat: a terrorist-type bomb, with a nuclear, biological, or chemical warhead. This technology is easier to develop than ICBMs, and as the chemical attack in the Tokyo subway makes clear, terrorist groups can and will use these weapons. In fact, they offer terrorists plausible deniability--they can use such weapons and leave the United States with no clear-cut enemy to retaliate against. Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, leave a return address written in several thousand degrees fahrenheit.
- This bill will help shift attention to the everyday threats that proliferation is creating. Moscow has acknowledged that it has 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons in its stockpile. There are about 80 facilities in the former Soviet Union that store weapons grade nuclear materials, and as the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a report released this week, these poorly protected storage sites are patrolled by demoralized and underpaid guards. Russian law enforcement officials reported 54 cases of theft of fissile materials in 1993 and 1994, and both German and Czech officials have seized fissile materials originating in the FSU. In Project Sapphire, we airlifted 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium-enough for a dozen bombs--from a facility in Kazakhstan that was protected by little more than a padlock. We cannot possibly bring all of the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and materials of the
- former Soviet Union here to the United States; we must help these nations secure these materials, and by doing so, help protect ourselves.
- It is not just the FSU, of course, that we have to be concerned about. Libya is constructing a chemical weapons facility in Torhuna. North Korea probably possesses enough plutonium to make several nuclear weapons. China is assisting Iran in building a uranium hexafluoride [HEX] facility which converts uranium into a gaseous form so it can be diffused to produce highly enriched uranium. There are allegations that a Russian General helped smuggle binary nerve agents to Syria. All these incidents point to the possibility of a terrorist-type attack by some weapon of mass destruction at some point in the not-too-distant future.
- The legislation Representative McCollum and I are introducing today addresses the problem in three broad ways:
- First, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their components. The FSU offers terrorist groups and nations hostile to the United States their multiple chances to pilfer or acquire on an inchoate black market various weapons of mass destruction [WMD ]. This bill will help the FSU tighten up security over these weapons and materials, and monitor and verify their status.
- Second, making sure the United States can detect and interdict weapons of mass destruction and their materials. The United States has concentrated very little effort on how to detect weapons of mass destruction or their component materials if smuggled into this country, and we have done too little to learn how to disable these weapons safely, once discovered. This bill will help develop these capabilities.
- Third, being prepared should the United States be the victim of a weapon of mass destruction. The United States is not equipped to deal with an attack by a weapon of mass destruction. The World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings were devastating, and the bombing in Dhahran shows just how vulnerable Americans are to terrorist attack--but these attacks pale in comparison to a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon attack. This bill will train Federal, State and local officials to act in a coordinated way in response to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon attacks.
- I am pleased to have Representative McCollum join me in introducing this legislation. He is a leader in the Congress on this and related issues of law enforcement. He was a member of the CSIS steering committee that produced The Nuclear Black Market study published earlier this week, which helped frame this legislation. And as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Representative McCollum's support of this legislation will be critical in ensuring its adoption.
- Representative Weldon weighed cosponsoring this legislation with Representative McCollum and me, but decided to take more time to consider specific parts of the bill. I understand that Representative Weldon may introduce a modified form of the bill sometime next month, and I hope to work with him on that. Representative McCollum and I likewise may modify or add to the bill before us, so this does not purport to be the last word on the subject, but it does represent a solid, bipartisan baseline from which to start. In dealing with threats like these, we do not need to divide along party lines. The bill received an enormous vote of support in the Senate this morning. I hope we can amass the same support in the House and move the bill swiftly to passage or include it in the Defense authorization conference report, so that we can begin implementing it in earnest.