SHAHEEN INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS EMERGING THREAT OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Bill will specifically target immediate and growing danger posed by Middle East and North Africa

May 22, 2013

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced legislation to modernize the way the United States meets challenges posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) around the globe.  The bill, the Next Generation Cooperative Threat Reduction Act of 2013, will assist in developing an expanded and comprehensive cooperative threat reduction (CTR) strategy to target the immediate and growing challenges in one of the most critical regions to U.S. national security interests: the Middle East and North Africa.

Specifically, the legislation will require the President to establish a multi-year regional assistance strategy to coordinate CTR and related nonproliferation efforts in the Middle East and North Africa.  The bill would authorize additional funding to support the creation of new and innovative activities to address the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their associated materials.  Funding will allow for expanded training, professional networking and civil society engagement, increased dialogue, tighter export and border control rules, encouraging and assisting with security and the destruction of chemical or biological weapons programs, and many more efforts to help combat the spread of dangerous weapons and materials.

“Nuclear proliferation is one of the gravest dangers we face as an international community. It is imperative that we provide the necessary focus, time and resources to meet this threat,” said Senator Shaheen. “We need to remain vigilant, to think ahead, and to anticipate where the next threats will come from.

“Nowhere is the proliferation challenge more glaring than in the countries of the Middle East and Africa, where well-connected terrorist groups operate amidst political instability. In addition, a growing collection of unsecured conventional and possible WMD-related weapons and materials have created a danger we cannot ignore,” Shaheen added. “My legislation will appropriately expand our threat reduction programs to meet the threats of tomorrow.”

The bill builds on the successful model of cooperative nonproliferation efforts that was established by Senators Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar two decades ago when they created the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program.  The Nunn-Lugar program has proven to be one of the most successful Congressionally-led foreign policy efforts of our generation.  It has led to the deactivation of well over 13,000 nuclear warheads, the destruction of over 1,400 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons agent in the former Soviet Union.  The Shaheen Next Generation Cooperative Threat Reduction Act utilizes the model of Nunn-Lugar and applies it to the Middle East and North Africa.   

Shaheen, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, has worked extensively to strengthen America’s national security with respect to arms control and WMD proliferation and was a key leader in the successful ratification of the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia.  She has also been a leading voice warning of the dangers of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.

"Senator Shaheen is undertaking a critically important effort to reduce the threat of proliferation by terrorists and other nations through enhancing and strengthening cooperative threat reduction programs in one of the most dangerous regions confronting the United States, namely the Middle East and North Africa," said David Albright, a physicist and the Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security.

“Senator Shaheen's legislation addresses the U.S.'s urgent need to significantly enhance its support, coordination, and implementation of programs designed to cooperatively counter the increasing risk of the U.S. being attacked with WMD originating from the Middle East,”  said Professor Orde Kittrie, a Professor of Law at Arizona State University and one of the State Department’s lead nuclear affairs attorneys responsible for negotiating five U.S.-Russia nuclear agreements and a UN treaty to combat nuclear terrorism.

“The bill is a much needed measure that will fill a funding gap that hinders the U.S. government’s ability to address one of the greatest challenges of our times - - preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East,” said Chen Kane, PhD, Senior Research Associate at the Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and co-editor of Arms Control and Regional Security for the Middle East. “The regional turmoil we witness today has made the task of working cooperatively, to reduce the danger of WMD, all the more urgent.  The risk that such weapons will fall into the hands of extremists has been growing.  Many leaders and people in the Middle East recognize this pressing need and are now, more than ever, interested in cooperating to reduce risk, enhance education and bolster regional cooperation to address this threat.”

“The danger of WMD proliferation in the Middle East is intensifying,” said UCLA Professor Steven Spiegel, Director of the Center for Middle East Development, and the chair of the Middle East Regional Security and Cooperation Dialogue. The current turmoil in the region has increased the importance of urgent, cooperative action to confront the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to promote more effective partnerships on arms control. The intensified effort to create such a strategy for limiting WMD proliferation at this time of instability and uncertainty in the Middle East is imperative.”

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