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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weekly Column 01-10-01

Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN)
January 10, 2001
The Pentagon recently released a report entitled "Proliferation Threat and Response," which details the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs that threaten the United States and the Department of Defense?s response. It should come as no surprise that the threats to the United States are rising, and entities in Russia and China remain the worst offenders. Worse yet, our military remains largely unprepared to meet such a threat.
The report states that many of the world?s rogue nations?North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Libya, for example?have made aggressive efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the means to deliver them. Communist North Korea is also a key supplier state of ballistic missiles and may be providing other rogue states with the material necessary to build nuclear weapons. This report claims that the prospect of these weapons and material falling into the hands of terrorists or extremist groups is increasing.
As this report clearly illustrates, proliferation continues to pose a clear and present threat to the security of the United States. And this is not the first such report. Last year, a separate analysis from the U.S. intelligence community stated that China transferred missile technology to Libya, provided missile-related goods to North Korea, and may still be providing secret technical assistance to Pakistan's nuclear programs. The report added that Russia was providing Iran with missile and nuclear technology?items which threaten U.S. interests, forces, and allies in the Persian Gulf region. In many of these cases, the Clinton Administration either ignored the facts, failed to take action in accordance with U.S. law, or sought new "agreements" that were either ineffective or rarely fulfilled.
That is why I introduced legislation last year that would provide an annual review of proliferation by key supplier states, outline the United States? response to these activities, and require sanctions under U.S. law to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missile technologies and advanced conventional weapons by key supplier countries. The legislation, "The China Nonproliferation Act," would require the President to impose non-trade related sanctions on individuals, companies, and groups if he determines that violations have occurred. Unfortunately, this bipartisan effort was derailed last year during the debate over granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to China.
Nations have also advanced their WMD and ballistic missile programs by diverting commercial technologies such as high-performance computers and wind tunnels toward military applications. China, for example, has misused sensitive "dual-use" technologies, which were legally acquired from United States corporations, to further its military modernization and nuclear weapons programs. Many rogue states and terrorist groups are doing the same. The diversion of high-technology items and know-how for military and illegal uses must stop. The best way to do this is to strengthen our export control laws and regulations, improve our export review procedures, and provide federal agencies with the resources and authority they need to do their jobs.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has made some progress in countering these threats, particularly with the creation of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, whose primary mission is to protect our country from WMD threats. But more must be done. Our nation continues to lack sufficient resources for critical WMD defense programs, including medical biological defense, domestic emergency coordination, and ballistic missile defense. DoD?s organizational structure in this area remains convoluted. International efforts have shown only limited results, and coordination with state and local agencies on a domestic response has been spotty.
The "Proliferation Threats and Response" Report by the Department of Defense is the latest in a long list of evidence that the world remains a dangerous place. It is clear that the United States must take tough and immediate action to curb the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles.
During this session of Congress, I intend to work hard to strengthen our export control laws and make our licensing procedures more efficient. I?ll be focused on giving our intelligence community the resources it needs and ensuring that the United States develops a robust national missile defense system that can protect America. I also believe that the Congress needs to consider legislation that will make the activities of the world?s worst proliferators, and the United States? response, more transparent and open to public scrutiny. Only by taking action today to prevent the further spread of these dangerous weapons and technologies can we ensure the safety of our country and our families tomorrow

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Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson
Former U.S. Senator (R-TN)