Preventing Nuclear Terrorism

The Security for a New Century Study Group was honored to host Mr.
Matthew Rojansky, Executive Director of the Partnership for a Secure
America and Mr. Brian Finlay, Senior Associate with the Cooperative
Nonproliferation Program at the Henry L. Stimson Center for a
discussion of the Partnership for a Secure America’s report: WMD Report Card; Evaluating US Policies to Prevent Nuclear Chemical and Biological Terrorism Since 2005.

The
recently released report offered a critical appraisal of US Government
efforts to contain the threat of terrorist groups acquiring and using
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Partnership for a Secure
America (PSA) identifies a terrorist attack with Waepons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) as the greatest threat to the American people. the
report echoes the findings of the original 9/11 Commission. Preventing
the proliferation of WMD should be a focus of maximum effort by the US
Government.

In “grading” US efforts since 9/11 to contain the
terorrist WMD threat, the Partnership for a Secure America has assigned
an overall mark of “C”. This assessment represents an improvement from
the “D” grade given to the US Government by the 2005 9/11 Public
Discourse Project.

The Partnership for a Secure America has put
forth several recommendations for improving this overall grade,
including the appointment of a top-level administration official with
government-wide authority over WMD terrorism prevention. This official
would be responsible for coordinating efforts among the myriad agencies
now tasked with achieving these goals. Placing responsibility for
coordinating these efforts in the hands of an individual would
eliminate some of the “stove-piping” problems that have been identified
in previous US Government interagency efforts. The US Congress has
already authorized the creation of a high-level “coordinator”, but this
position has yet to be crated by the Bush Administration. the Creation
fo this post should be supplemented by the establishment of a
coordinated “blueprint” that integrates all relevant US agencies and
clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each.

PSA also
calls for strengthening international cooperation with the US
Government through multilateral institutions such as the United
Nations, regional organizations, such as the European Union and
bilateral efforts such as the Cooperative Threat Reduction program with
Russia. The US Government has shown a lack of willingness to engage
existing international institutions in efforts to prevent terrorist
acquisition of WMD. PSA has identified the importance addressing common
threat perceptions in securing the cooperation of international
partners in these efforts. Thes threats may be viewed differently in
other states, but the ability to find common ground will improve
long-term sustainability of international efforts to prevent WMD
terrorism.

The expansion of the global economy can also play a
role in ecnouraging these states to take the WMD threat seriously. The
unwillingness of US multinational corporations to do business in
high-risk areas provides an incentive for states to address internal
ssues in order to open up economic opportunities with US firms.

PSA also graded US efforts at prevention within the three distinct
weapon types: nuclear, biological and chemical that comprise WMD. The
best overall grade, a “B-“, was recorded in the prevention of chemical
weapons terrorism. In assigning this grade, PSA pointed to the progress
made in destroying US cemical weapon stockpiles but emphasized the need
to engage Libya and Russia in order to bring about similar progress in
destroying stockpiles. The overall US grade for biological terrorism
prevention was a “C-“. PSA cited the US disengagement from the
Biological Weapons Convention as a detriment to international efforts
at confidence-building. Nuclear terrorism prevention was assigned a
grade of “C” by PSA.  Specific  weaknesses were found in US interagency
cooperation and  the durability of international programs.

“Security
for a New Century” is a bipartisan study group for Congress.  We meet
regularly with US and  international policy preofessionals to discuss
the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. Please call (202) 223-5956 for more information.

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