However, a little over 20 years ago, the Cooperative Threat Reduction program championed by Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) was passed in the United States Congress. The Nunn-Lugar program enabled Russia and the United States to work together to safeguard WMD, dismantle nuclear weapons and provide work for weapons scientists.
Dollar for dollar, you would be hard-pressed to find a program that has contributed more to the security of the United States and the world. Without the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, it would be far easier for terrorist groups and non-state actors to acquire the materials and know-how needed to obtain weapons of mass destruction. The bottom line is that bipartisan and international cooperation on a pressing threat yielded real and lasting improvements in both U.S. and global security.
The era of bipartisan cooperation on nuclear security must continue. The cost of a nuclear terrorist attack – in terms of lives and the impact on the global economy– is far too high to react with anything less than urgency.
Today, two major impediments confront future progress on nuclear security. First, financial constraints, both at home and abroad, threaten vital programs that prevent nuclear terrorism. It is obvious, however, that the costs of responding to a nuclear attack would far exceed the costs of preventing one. Congress and the president must work together to ensure that efforts to strengthen global nuclear security are appropriately funded.
Second, not all nations share our resolve in countering the nuclear terrorist threat. Many nations have not responded to the threat with appropriate action. Others still falsely perceive nuclear terrorism as merely a threat to the West or specifically to the United States. The United States and nations that support the vision of true global nuclear security must encourage others to recognize the danger and take stronger action to mitigate it. If the United States and Russia could find common ground to collaborate on nuclear security in the wake of the Cold War, surely other nations can do the same today.
The Nuclear Security Summit process, initiated by the United States in 2010, has become a critical tool to raise global awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism and strengthen preventive measures. It continues America’s legacy as a global leader in countering nuclear terrorism, which began with Nunn-Lugar and has spanned multiple administrations. The 47 heads of state attending the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit agreed that “nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to global security” and that “strong nuclear security measures” are needed to prevent the threat from being realized. Many states made supplementary national commitments to further the Summit goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials by 2014.
To ensure that the world’s most dangerous terrorists are prevented from acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons, unified American leadership must continue. Working together, we must move forward aggressively, leading the responsible community of nations behind the purposeful vision of a nuclear-secure world.
Rep. Fortenberry (R-Neb.) serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Schiff (D-Calif.) serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.