15 July 1999
14 July 1999
(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.