News

USIS Washington 
File

14 July 1999

Commission Urges New Effort to Curb Weapons of Mass Destruction

(Deutch, Specter Present Bipartisan Group's Findings to Congress)
(900)
By Ralph Dannheisser
USIA Congressional Correspondent

Washington -- Declaring that the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) poses "a chilling challenge for the American
people," former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Deutch has
delivered a bipartisan commission's report to Congress proposing ways
to strengthen the U.S. government's efforts to fight the threat.

"Terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction against the United
States is a very real possibility," Deutch said.

Key to the commission's proposals is the coordination, under a single
new national director for combating proliferation, of the functions
now divided among as many as 96 federal agencies, Deutch and Senator
Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, told reporters at a briefing
in the U.S. Capitol July 14.

Under the proposed new structure, the national director would chair a
Combating Proliferation Council composed of senior officials from each
federal agency involved in the effort. He would report through the
national security adviser to the president and vice president, Specter
said, and it would fall to the vice president to "adjudicate turf
battles."

As matters now stand, "the U.S. government is not effectively
organized to combat proliferation" of nuclear, chemical, and
biological weapons and their means of delivery," the commission found.

Deutch is chairman, and Specter vice chairman, of the 12-member panel,
whose formal name is the Commission to Assess the Organization of the
Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass
Destruction.

One commission member, former Senator James Exon, a Nebraska Democrat,
argued that even the proposed new structure does not go far enough in
raising the profile of the fight against proliferation. Rather than
working through the National Security Council structure, Exon
suggested in "additional views" filed with the report, the national
director should have greatly enhanced authority, and report directly
to the president and vice president.

Otherwise, he warned, the political establishment will give the
national director and council "a wink and a nod...and continue the
status quo."

In a news release accompanying the 174-page report and a 93-page
annex, Deutch and Specter observed that "presidential leadership is
the key to a successful nonproliferation strategy." And, they said,
the panel found that the president should consider giving the vice
president "a special role" in the National Security Council "to ensure
adequate attention to proliferation."

In addition, the group proposed reform of processes and operations in
the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and other
agencies responsible for nonproliferation. "The system generally
responds well to a crisis but lacks the tools to ensure sustained,
day-to-day focus and coordination to develop long-term strategies,"
Deutch and Specter said.

And, dealing with the Congress' arcane budget process, the group
proposed that a separate budget sub-function be created to combine
funding for anti-proliferation efforts across the spectrum of relevant
federal agencies. That step would assure that "both the president and
the Congress will be aware of the resources allocated to this critical
problem," Deutch told reporters.

Even if the panel's proposals are adopted, there is "no guarantee that
those risks (of an attack using WMD) will vanish," but "the country
will be better protected," he said.

Specter, who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, said he had been "terrified by what I saw" in classified
reports when he served in that post, in terms of the threat posed by
WMD, and was dismayed that the many federal agencies working against
WMD proliferation are "operating in a very disjointed way."

He reported that Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads
the Senate Armed Services Committee, already has said he plans to hold
hearings on the commission's report and recommendations.

And, Specter said, he himself will introduce legislation July 15,
along with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, a
North Carolina Republican, and Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the
committee's senior Democrat, focusing on the role of export controls
in diminishing the proliferation problem. He said the plan is to
attach the measure to legislation expected to gain congressional
approval by the end of July.

Specter said such a coordinated filing system would permit officials
to "put together an overall picture" of items that, for example, Iraq,
is buying, that could be combined to advance a WMD program.

Deutch concurred, but stressed that "we don't want to stop technology
from going abroad." Rather, he said, "we want to stop it from being
used by bad people for bad ends."

As another reform, Specter said, congressional oversight should be
streamlined, so that officials mounting the fight against WMD
proliferation do not need to give similar testimony before multiple
committees. Exon agreed, declaring that there are "all kinds of
overlap and duplication" in Congress, to an even greater extent than
in the executive branch.

The commission's report says its members believe the most serious WMD
threats are:

-- Terrorist use of WMD against the United States or its allies;

-- Possession of, and the manufacturing infrastructure for, WMD by
Iran, Iraq, North Korea, or other unfriendly states;

-- Diversion of WMD-related weapons, technology, materials and
expertise from Russia;

-- Transfer of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, delivery
means, and technology by China; and

-- Destabilizing consequences of WMD programs in the Middle East,
South Asia, and East Asia.