1998 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile


March 21, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 21, 1998 CONTACT: Maureen Cragin Ryan Vaart (202) 225-2539

Thank you all for coming today. It gives me great pleasure to convene this hearing in Indianapolis this weekend in conjunction with the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC). I want to especially thank my colleague, Congressman Silvestre Reyes, for joining us.

We meet here today to receive testimony on our nation's capacity to respond to the threat of domestic terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction. This is the fifth hearing my Subcommittee has convened since March of 1996 to address the threat posed to the United States and U. S. citizens from terrorists use of nuclear, chemical, or biological materials, and the need for improvements in the capabili-ties of emergency first responders and in the overall capability of federal, state, and local emergency response agencies to respond to and mitigate the effect of such incidents.

As many of you may know, in addition to serving in my capacity as Chairman of this Subcommittee, I also serve as the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. I founded the Caucus over ten years ago to better educate Members of Congress and their staffs regarding the issues which effect first responders on a daily basis. That is why we are here today. Because when all is said and done, our nation's first responders will always be the first on the scene at any suspected terrorists incident involving weapons of mass destruction.

Just last month, the Las Vegas Fire Department was faced with what we all thought was a terrorist attack involving anthrax. As we know, that turned out not be not the case. But still, I am anxious to hear from Chief Mario Trevino from Las Vegas regarding his first-hand experience with a possible WMD incident. It is clear that our nation is ill-prepared to deal with terrorist attacks involving nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Whether it is the Las Vegas incident, or a similar scenario such as the one which played out in Washington, D. C. last year involving what was a suspected biologi-cal attack on the B'nai B'rith Foundation, we need to prepare our first responders to deal with the very real scenario of a WMD threat.

On any given week, I meet with a number of fire service organizations from across the country. I have received a wide range of conflicting opinions. Some have portrayed the current efforts within the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to train first responders for WMD incidents as a success, others have just the opposite view. The same holds true for plans to utilize the National Guard and Reserve Components in responding to a WMD threat.

That's why I think it is timely that we hold this hearing in Indianapolis. We are joined by nearly 23,000 first responders who are attending FDIC. This is the prefect opportunity for both the federal government to provide our first responders with an overview of federal efforts to better train and equip them to respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction, but also to let the federal government hear from first responders.