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WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. Senate today unanimously accepted a bipartisan amendment to the FY 2012 Defense Authorization bill that urges greater action by the Obama Administration to keep Libya’s stockpile of about 20,000 portable anti-aircraft missiles, known as MANPADS, out of the hands of terrorists who wish to do harm to Americans.

The amendment was coauthored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), member of the Senate Armed Services and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

This amendment specifically charges the Administration to conduct an urgent intelligence assessment of the threat these missile pose to the American people and our allies.  It also requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to mitigate this threat.

“Reports continue to surface of looted stockpiles and weapons proliferating to other countries in the region,” Senator Collins said. “By adopting this amendment, my colleagues in the Senate have reiterated the importance of understanding the threat from Libyan missiles to Americans and our allies, and ensuring that we have a strategy to secure them with a sense of urgency.” 

“Locating and securing these weapons is crucial to protecting our airways as we address concerning reports of unsecured and looted stockpiles of tens-of-thousands of shoulder-fired missiles in Libya. If these weapons fall into the wrong hands, they pose a serious threat to Americans who rely on air travel, our deployed forces abroad, and civil aviation worldwide,” Senator Shaheen said. “I applaud my Senate colleagues for recognizing that this must be an immediate priority if we are to stop the use and spread of these weapons.”

“It is essential that the U.S. work with its allies to ensure that weapons from the war in Libya do not end up in the hands of terrorists.  Shoulder launched missiles pose an extremely dangerous threat to commercial aircraft across the middle east, including to our ally Israel.  I was proud to be an original cosponsor of this important amendment which will enhance the safety of those flying internationally,” said Senator Casey.

“Earlier this month, Senators Collins and Shaheen led a letter to the President expressing concerns about reports of unsecured and looted stockpiles of portable anti-aircraft missiles in Libya.  “Given the serious threat these missiles pose to civil aviation worldwide, our deployed forces, and our homeland security, we urge you to make the recovery and dismantlement of these weapons the utmost priority in Libya and the region,” the Senators wrote in their letter.  In October, Senators Collins and Shaheen sent a similar letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressing similar concerns.  In addition, Senator Shaheen sent a letter to the White House in April, soon after fighting began in Libya, expressing concern about the large number of unsecured shoulder-fired missiles in that country and encouraging that full efforts be taken to locate and secure them.