[Congressional Record: September 8, 2009 (Senate)] [Page S9135-S9139] STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS By Mr. LIEBERMAN (for himself and Ms. Collins): S. 1649. A bill to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to prepare for attacks using weapons of mass destruction, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I am pleased to join Senator Lieberman in introducing the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009. This legislation would increase our Nation's protections against an attack using WMDs. The bill implements many of the recommendations of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Congress established that Commission in 2007 in legislation that Senator Lieberman and I coauthored. Heading the WMD Commission were former Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent. Last December, the Commission produced a comprehensive report on the WMD threats to our Nation and provided recommendations to prevent further proliferation and acts of terrorism using these deadly weapons. The Commission's ``World at Risk'' report warned that it is ``more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.'' The Commission's report is a call to action. The Commission reinforces the sense of urgency that the Homeland Security Committee has felt during its many hearings on deadly threats to the American people--threats that include terrorists dispersing anthrax spores, detonating a nuclear device in a major city, or striking with other weapons of mass destruction. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, reformed our intelligence agencies, strengthened FEMA, increased grants for State and local first responders, and enhanced security at our seaports and chemical facilities. As the Commission observes, however, ``the terrorists have been active, too,'' and we must continue our efforts. Nuclear proliferation and advances in biotechnology give terrorists new methods [[Page S9136]] to carry out their avowed intention to commit mass murder. The mental images of nuclear blasts and mushroom clouds are powerful and frightening. As the WMD Commission rightly notes, however, the more likely threat is from a biological weapon. In contrast to nuclear weapons, the technological hurdle is lower to develop and disseminate bioweapons, access to pathogens is more widespread, and pathogens are harder to contain. The spread of biotechnology, the difficulty of detecting such pathogens, and terrorists' known interest in bioterrorism combine to produce an even greater menace. Bio-weapons are appealing to terrorists in part because we are unlikely to realize that an attack has occurred before it begins to kill many of its victims. Worldwide security has lagged behind the growth of this threat. Even within our own country, the Commission and GAO have found that we fail to secure potential biological weapons effectively. In July, the GAO found significant deficiencies in perimeter security at biological labs that handle the world's most dangerous biological agents and diseases, such as the Ebola virus and smallpox. Because no cure or treatment exists for some of the pathogens handled by these labs, this is alarming. Thousands of individuals in the United States have access to dangerous pathogens. Currently there are about 400 research facilities and nearly 15,000 individuals in the U.S. authorized to handle the deadly pathogens on the ``Select Agent List.'' Indeed, the FBI has determined that a cleared scientist who worked at a regulated research lab likely carried out the Anthrax attacks on the Senate and the U.S. postal system in 2001. To counter this threat, the WMD Commission recommends increasing the security of biological laboratories that handle dangerous pathogens. This legislation would do so by establishing additional security measures for the most dangerous pathogens that terrorists are likely to use in an attack. A negotiated rulemaking--with Federal agencies and research institutions at the table--would develop these enhanced security standards. This would ensure that regulations, which make our Nation's labs more secure, would not have the unintended consequence of deterring legitimate research endeavors. In order to help fund the security enhancements at the highest-risk biolabs and avoid diverting research funding to security upgrades, the bill authorizes a grant program at $50 million for each of the next four years. This is a sufficient level of funding to ensure that each of the labs registered to handle the most dangerous pathogens could access funding. In response to another Commission finding that many research facilities that handle less strictly controlled, yet still dangerous pathogens are not even known to the government, the legislation requires registration of these labs. This system of enhanced security for labs with the most dangerous pathogens and the registration of labs that handle less dangerous pathogens will result in facility security requirements that are tiered based on the risk that a pathogen at a particular facility could be used in a biological attack. To better prepare the American people for a bio-weapon attack, the bill improves the government's ability to distribute medical countermeasures and requires actions to improve communications with the public before and during a biological attack. As the Commission wisely advised, citizens need to know what to expect during a biological attack and how they should respond. While security controls must be improved within our own country, global security problems are daunting. Countries like Syria do not adhere to the Biological Weapons Convention, which is the multilateral treaty that banned the development, production, and stockpiling of biological weapons. Other countries that signed the treaty may not be living up to these commitments. To address these international biosecurity threats, the bill requires that the Director of National Intelligence, DNI, report on countries that have facilities with the highest-risk pathogens and the security measures in place at these facilities. The DNI also must develop a strategy for improving the Federal Government's capabilities to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence related to weapons of mass destruction. In addition, the bill would direct the Secretary of State to provide assistance to enhance security at laboratories with dangerous pathogens worldwide and to use exchange programs to train foreign nationals. In this way, foreign nationals can promote lab safety and detect disease outbreaks in their home countries. This legislation, which would implement the WMD Commission's recommendations, is an important and significant step forward in addressing the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction, and of bio-weapons in particular. Countering this threat is critical for the security of our Nation. ______
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 8, 2009
Contact: Sara Lonardo
Lieberman, Collins Seek to Protect U.S. Against Biological and Other Terrorist WMD Attacks
Legislation Responds To Warnings of a WMD Terrorist Attack By 2013
WASHINGTON - As the nation prepares to mark the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday introduced legislation to prevent and prepare for terrorist attacks from biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 responds to a statement by the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell in December 2008 and the findings of a Congressionally-mandated WMD commission that a WMD terrorist attack is more likely than not to occur by 2013 and that a biological attack is more likely than a nuclear attack.
"The approaching eighth anniversary of the 9/11 and anthrax attacks reminds us that we cannot let our guard down against the constant threat of terrorists intent on doing us harm," Lieberman said. "This legislation provides a comprehensive framework for protecting the United States from weapons of mass destruction and biological attacks, in particular, which the experts say is more likely than a nuclear attack.
"Our bill would strengthen security at labs using the most dangerous pathogens, improve our capabilities to assess the threat of terrorists acquiring WMD, ensure that citizens get critical safety information, and develop a means for quickly delivering life-saving drugs to areas that have been attacked.
"We dare not bury our heads in the sand and ignore the very real risks we face from a terrorist WMD attack. This legislation would help prevent such an attack and better prepare the nation to respond should one occur."
"As the Commission noted in its comprehensive report, terrorists have been active since the attacks of September 11, 2001. America must not become complacent. Terrorists haven't given up; they haven't gone away. Our enemies remain fixed on their avowed goal of committing mass murder," said Collins. "Nuclear proliferation and advances in biotechnology could give terrorists new means to wreak death and destruction around the world. That is why the Commission's report is a call to action. And this legislation answers that call by proposing aggressive, urgent steps that will help safeguard our nation, particularly against the threat of biological attacks."
The Lieberman/Collins legislation implements the recommendations of the Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, and would improve biosecurity by identifying the most dangerous pathogens and then requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop security standards for laboratories that handle those pathogens, including risk assessments, personnel reliability programs, and physical security.
The bill also would improve U.S. prevention against and preparedness for an attack in an effort to minimize casualties and prevent mass destruction. It would:
• Require DHS to designate the most dangerous pathogens which have significant potential to be used effectively in a biological attack.
• Require DHS to set new security standards for labs using the most dangerous pathogens, including risk assessments, personnel reliability programs, and staff training.
• Require a national strategy for dispensing antibiotics and other medicines to the public and expand a pilot program for using the Postal Service to dispense them.
• Require communications plans to convey instructions to the public - including whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place - in the critical moments after an attack.
• Support a National Bioforensics Analysis Center to identify the perpetrator of a WMD attack rapidly.
• Provide personal medical kits to emergency responders in order to enable them to respond quickly to a WMD attack without jeopardizing their own safety.
• Require DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide better terrorism threat and risk assessments to the public.
• Promote citizen and community preparedness for WMD attacks, including by authorizing grants to States.
In addition, the legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to develop a strategy for improving intelligence on WMD and terrorism, including hiring scientists and improving language capabilities. Finally, the legislation requires that the Secretary of State promote international adherence to agreements such as the Biological Weapons Convention, provide biosecurity training to countries that possess dangerous pathogens, and assist countries with training and equipment to improve global disease surveillance.
The WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 is the latest example of the Committee's leadership in countering terrorism and preserving homeland security. Since 9/11, the Committee has authored a series of landmark legislation that: created the Department of Homeland Security, the DNI and the National Counterterrorism Center; reformed the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina; and implemented the full spectrum of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.
Source: Office of Senator Lieberman