The United States is unprepared for an attack involving weapons of mass destruction, according to a report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.
The report, and the commission’s prediction that it is “more likely than not” that a WMD will be used by terrorists by the end of 2013, were the principal topics at Thursday’s joint subcommittee hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee on the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011.
Lawmakers discussed the commission’s statement, made in a prior report, that “Unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, 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.”
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, called the report “a startling reminder of the danger we face as a nation” and emphasized the need to protect the nation from an attack.
Lungren acknowledged the Congress has not met the commission’s recommendations to fully prepare the country for an attack.
“We cannot forget Congress’s own shortcomings.” Lungren said. “The WMD commission gave Congress a failing grade for not reforming its congressional oversight to better address our homeland security needs.”
The WMD commission, headed by former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.), was formed by congressional mandate and concluded its official work in February 2010. It has continued its work as an independent, bipartisan organization.
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), ranking member on the subcommittee, agreed that Congress must step up its efforts to safeguard the country.
“America needs to move aggressively to address our vulnerability to a bioterror attack,” Richardson said.
Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Pete King (R-N.Y.) will introduce the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011 on Friday. The congressmen first introduced the legislation in 2010, but the bill was never considered by the entire House.
The bill would establish a new “special assistant” to the president for biodefense who would create a federal biodefense plan and a yearly budget. The bill also contains legislation that would allow state and local first responders access to surplus vaccine.