Oral Statement on “Addressing a New Generation of WMD Threats” Before House Armed Services Committee

Congressional Testimony
Jul 15, 2009

Chairman Skelton, Ranking Member McKeon, and Members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss NNSA’s vital role in supporting the Administration’s efforts to address Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) threats.  Mr. Chairman, under your leadership, the Committee has been a strong supporter of NNSA’s defense nuclear nonproliferation activities and we thank you and the rest of this Committee for this support.  The Committee’s assistance will become even more critical as NNSA seeks to expand and accelerate efforts, consistent with the President’s nuclear security strategy. 

The nonproliferation activities that I will discuss today are a subset of the Department of Energy’s overall capabilities to address the WMD threat.  These activities complement the Department’s other recognized nonproliferation, arms control, and counterterrorism capabilities.  However, my remarks today focus on our first- and second-line of defense activities to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, materials, and technology.

The President made clear, in his April speech in Prague, in Joint Statements with our Russian partners, and elsewhere, that nuclear weapons remain a fundamental issue facing the international community in the 21st Century.  He has stated that the most immediate and extreme threat to global security is the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists.  To address this threat, the President has outlined an ambitious strategy to:  deal with nuclear arsenals; halt the proliferation of weapons to additional states; and, prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons or the materials needed to build them.  

I have often had the opportunity to speak to Members of this Committee on the important work that NNSA’s Nuclear Security Enterprise carries out to ensure that the United States nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure, and effective to deter any adversary, and provide the appropriate defense umbrella to our allies.  While I am speaking today about a separate major component of the NNSA, the nonproliferation component of our national security mission relies upon similar scientific and technical expertise.  It is that scientific and technical nuclear expertise, combined with our proven track record of implementing a number of successful programs, both domestic and abroad, that makes the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Program a leader in nonproliferation activities, throughout the world.  The NNSA nuclear security programs provide an important means to achieve a number of President Obama’s objectives. 

President Obama’s April Prague speech provides a priority list of areas in which the NNSA will focus its future nuclear security activities.  Chief among them is the President’s call to:  secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years; expand our cooperation with Russia; and, pursue new partnerships to lock-down these sensitive materials.  This is an urgent and ambitious goal.  However, it is one that we stand prepared to support. 

Our work scope includes a priority-based assessment of the activities required to address security concerns at specific sites worldwide.  NNSA will undertake the following actions:

• Expand nuclear security cooperation with Russia and other key partners;
• Secure nuclear material at the most vulnerable sites worldwide;
• Remove and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials where possible;
• Strengthen international nuclear security standards, practices, and international safeguards;
• Improve international capabilities to detect and intercept smuggling of nuclear materials; and prevent terrorists and proliferators from poaching on the international market in dual-use and nuclear weapons related equipment and technologies.

To start addressing the four-year timeline to secure vulnerable nuclear material, some existing NNSA activities will be accelerated, including our: Material Protection, Control and Accounting; Global Threat Reduction Initiative; and, Nonproliferation and International Security programs.  Other aspects of the President’s agenda will require new or expanded efforts.  But, in short, we have our to-do list. 

This NNSA plan of work alone will not accomplish all of the President’s nuclear security objectives.  Under the leadership of the White House, we will work closely with the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and others, in achieving these goals.  The Joint Statement on Nuclear Cooperation issued by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Russia just last week, as well as the March 2010 Global Nuclear Security Summit announced at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, likewise will provide a solid foundation for work with our international partners. 

In closing, as the Administrator of the NNSA, I am very proud of the work and the accomplishments of the Nonproliferation Program that we have.  For the sake of not taking up too much of the Committee’s time today, I have not covered our numerous accomplishments in my oral statement.  However, I have included the details on our nonproliferation programs and our achievements in my written testimony.  You have my assurance that as we continue our important programs to achieve the President’s nonproliferation goals, while working in close coordination with our inter-agency partners, the NNSA will do its best to make the world a safer place.  Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, that concludes my remarks.