The proposed House Republican budget for Fiscal Year 2011 that the House will begin considering today dramatically undercuts the fight against nuclear terrorism.
The House Appropriations Committee last week recommended $2.085 billion for “Defense Nuclear Proliferation” in the National Nuclear Security Agency, a whopping cut of $602 million, or 22% from programs that keep nuclear weapon materials out of the hands of terrorists.
These funds are used to reduce the global threat posed by nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation and unsecure nuclear materials.
The programs funded by this budget are a highly successful effort thus far in keeping nuclear weapons materials away from terrorists that has heretofore enjoyed bipartisan support.
House Republicans, in their zeal to fulfill a campaign pledge, threaten to cripple one of the best defenses this country has that has also enjoyed bipartisan support. Republicans seem indifferent to the real threat that al Qaeda will steal nuclear bomb-making material.
Experts agree that limiting access to vulnerable nuclear weapons-usable materials greatly reduces the threat of nuclear terrorism. The global financial cost and terrible destruction of a nuclear terrorist attack would dwarf the costs of preventing such an attack.
The fight against nuclear terrorism is a fight that can and must be won.
At the close of 2010, NNSA announced that 111 pounds of bomb-making highly enriched uranium were removed from three sites in Ukraine. Since April 2009, six countries have given up all their highly enriched uranium and a total of 120 bombs’ worth of nuclear material was secured.
The bi-partisan 9/11 Commission responsible for investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11th found that, “The greatest danger of another catastrophic attack in the United States will materialize if the world’s most dangerous terrorists acquire the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
It further noted that al Qaeda had been working diligently for a decade to acquire weapons of mass destruction and that the United States would most certainly be a prime target once they succeeded in their quest.
During the first presidential debate in 2004, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry agreed — as stated by the president — that “the single, largest threat to American national security today is nuclear weapons in the hands of a terrorist network.”
It is understandable that Tea Party freshmen would be unaware of the successes of this program. But to see House leadership who have every reason to know better to cave in on this issue is very surprising, and, given their rhetoric on security, surprising.