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Front Office, Team 3 Warren Bass Mike Hurley Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Recommendation Proposal

Three years after 9/11, the United States remains unnecessarily vulnerable to the gravest imaginable terrorist threat: a nuclear explosion in an American city. While this problem has received significant attention in the past, the Commission's findings clearly urge renewed activism. Senior policymakers' concerns about al Qaeda and WMD turn out to have been older and more intense than had been previously known. As early as July 1998, NSC counterterrorism staff were talking worriedly about Bin Ladin associates' description of their leader as intent on carrying out a "Hiroshima." The NSC's veteran point person on nuclear terrorism—Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, a Department of Energy nuclear specialist detailed to the Transnational Threats Directorate in both the Clinton and Bush administrations—described in harrowing terms her fear that al Qaeda already has nuclear weapons inside the United States. In particular, Gordon-Hagerty was concerned about al Qaeda's potential for manufacturing a crude, inefficient, but nevertheless devastating nuclear bomb—not a mere "dirty bomb." While other NSC and CIA staffers offer significantly less alarming views, it would be irresponsible not to take Gordon-Hagerty's warnings very seriously indeed. Moreover, it is impossible to make the case that the history-making bloodshed and impact of 9/11 has slaked al Qaeda's thirst for spectacular attacks. Indeed, if terrorist groups—as RAND's Bruce Hoffman puts it—are like sharks that need to constantly swim forward to stay alive, al Qaeda is likely to be feeling significant internal pressure to ensure that its next attack on the United States tops even 9/11. In congressional testimony on February 24, 2004, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet underscored the threat by noting that Usama Bin Ladin had decreed the acquisition of WMD to be a "religious obligation" and warning that al Qaeda "continues to pursue its strategic goal of obtaining a nuclear capability." Bin Ladin's spokesman, Sulayman Abu Ghaith, brags that al Qaeda wants "to kill 4 million Americans, including 1 million children." Nor can we safely assume that the threat of nuclear terrorism is necessarily limited to al Qaeda; Tenet testified that "more than two dozen other terrorist groups are pursuing CBRN materials." With this context, the Commission ought to use its unprecedented platform to promote the agenda that will do more than anything else to make our nation safer: accelerated efforts to control nuclear material and weapons. This has been a top U.S. priority since the signing of PDD-39 in President Clinton's first term; after 9/11, we must do far more. With bomb designs now widely available, nuclear experts largely agree that the largest hurdle would-be nuclear terrorists face is acquiring the nuclear material to fuel a bomb. But there is plenty of that material around. "The world's stockpiles of separated plutonium and HEU [highly enriched uranium] are estimated to total some 450 metric tons of military and civilian separated plutonium, and some 1,600 tons of HEU—enough to make nearly a quarter million nuclear weapons," notes the nonprofit Nuclear Threat

Initiative. The problem is not limited to Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea; policymakers must also focus on other states supplied by the Soviet Union and the United States with reactors large enough to produce the highly enriched uranium needed for a bomb, including Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ghana. The concern centers less around strategic nuclear weapons and missiles, which are so bulky as to be very difficult to steal, but around tactical, battlefield nuclear weapons and around the nuclear materials that could be used to make a bomb. Another key concern is the fact that a nuclear bomb might be built with a relatively small amount of nuclear materials. According to a special Department of Energy Task Force on Russia chaired by Lloyd Cutler and Senator Howard Baker, a 15-kiloton nuclear bomb—strong enough to kill 250,000 people if detonated in lower Manhattan—could be built with just 20 kilograms of highly enriched uranium or 4 kilograms of plutonium. Security at many of nuclear stockpiles is reassuringly thorough, particularly in NPT signatory states, but some stockpiles are still kept well below U.S. standards for safety. Nor is the threat abstract. From 1993 to mid-June 2002, the IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database has recorded 440 incidents of illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials that have been confirmed by U.N. member states. Of those, 18 involved confirmed attempts "to illegally acquire, smuggle, or sell weapons-usable HEU or plutonium." Press reports note that in August 2003, Russia arrested the deputy director of Atomflot (the Russian repair agency for nuclear icebreakers and submarines) in Murmansk for his role in one such plot. Nor does the United States have reliable ways to stop the shipment of a bomb into American cities. Ports still screen only a tiny fraction of the massive inflow of cargo into this country; radiation detectors have not been installed and seem to have real limitations. Airline cargo remains a major vulnerability, too. And our borders could be penetrated at any number of points. The U.S. government cannot prevent all terrorist attacks. But it dare not permit nuclear terrorism. Such an attack is no longer unthinkable, but it should be made virtually impossible. Like Howard Baker, the former Republican Senate leader, we also find it startling "that there could be 40,000 nuclear weapons, or maybe 80,000 in the former Soviet Union, poorly controlled and poorly stored, and that the world is not in a nearstate of hysteria about the danger." U.S. efforts have simply not kept pace with the enormity of the threat. The United States, which has shown a willingness to wage war in Iraq to foreclose one scenario whereby al Qaeda might acquire nuclear weapons, should show as much if not more vigor in foreclosing other risks that many nuclear experts regard as significantly greater. Both resources and coordination are seriously lacking. Over the past decade, the United States has budgeted more than $4 billion for securing nuclear arms and materials in the former Soviet Union. Washington has also made various agencies responsible for various components of the U.S. effort to increase nuclear safety, including securing and

accounting for nuclear weapons and materials; stopping nuclear smuggling; limiting incentives for people to try to steal or sell nuclear weapons, fuel, or expertise; and monitoring and reducing stockpiles. After some initial signs to the contrary, the Bush administration has modestly increased funding for counterproliferation efforts in the former Soviet Union such as the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. It has also made a major push to get the G-8 states to match the U.S. contribution to threatreduction efforts—$1 billion per year—each year over the decade. But these efforts remain inadequate and piecemeal. As Harvard's Graham Allison has noted recently in Foreign Affairs, "were the president today to ask his cabinet who is responsible for preventing nuclear terrorism, either a dozen people would raise their hands, or no one would." Vladimir Putin would get even less clarity. As NTI notes, "Total funding for all threat reduction funding, including all the efforts devoted to ensuring that weapons of mass destruction do not fall into the hands of terrorists or hostile states, is now running at just over $1 billion per year—less than one third of one percent of a budget for the Department of Defense that in FY 2003 was over $365 billion. By way of comparison, the budget Congress approved for missile defense in FY 2003 is over $7.4 billion." We do not believe that missile defense will make Americans seven times safer from al Qaeda than a coordinated and appropriately resourced effort to secure every nuclear weapon in the world. The failure to fund and coordinate has left dangerous gaps. More needs to be done to upgrade security—even, as NTI notes, easily done fixes such as bricking up windows at Russian nuclear facilities. The overwhelming majority of Russia's long-since-unneeded stockpiles of highly enriched uranium is still in existence, standing as a constant temptation to terrorists. Tens of thousands of nuclear scientists and technicians could be out of work in Russia, creating horrifying incentives for them to sell their expertise to murderous bidders. Americans dare not comfort themselves by thinking that everything that could be done is being done. • We recommend the president appoint an NSC national coordinator to supervise an urgent and highest-priority U.S. program to ensure that we are doing everything possible to account for and secure every single nuclear weapon and every supply of nuclear fuel in the world. We recommend that this coordinator be tasked to involve both foreign and domestic arms of the U.S. government to tackle nuclear security, including homeland defense efforts, and we recommend that the coordinator have principals-level rank on related issues. We recommend that renewed efforts be made to work together with our Russian friends to ensure that our efforts are coordinated and comprehensive, including encouraging them to appoint a national counterproliferation coordinator of their own. We recommend follow-on steps to imitate the August 2002 success of Project Vinca, which removed from a dangerously unprotected nuclear facility in Yugoslavia enough HEU to make three bombs; these steps should include placing such projects under the control of the proposed national coordinator and

appropriating a pool of money—NTI gives the sensible figure of $50 million per year—to fund rapid security upgrades. We recommend renewed efforts to fund (at similar levels as the above program) and expand the U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement to ensure that as much HEU as possible is destroyed as quickly as possible, including more than doubling the current pace of destroying 30 tons of HEU per year. We recommend tasking the DCI to dramatically upgrade collection efforts on nuclear safety, including detailed annual reports to principals and the national coordinator about what we know and don't know about nuclear safety in states of particular concern. We recommend the screening of all materials entering the United States—by air, land, and sea—for radiation, including pre-screening at departure ports and faster methods to search containers upon their arrival at U.S. ports. We recommend raising funding for counterproliferation and nuclear security efforts dramatically—up to the $3 billion per year suggested by the Baker-Cutler Task Force—while also seeking contributions from U.S. friends and allies. We recommend international efforts, by both U.S. diplomats and those in nuclearrelated agencies coordinated by the new national coordinator, to ensure that the global regime to counter nuclear smuggling is as effective as possible. We recommend having the national coordinator rework the promising but thus far troubled Nuclear Cities Initiative designed to reemploy Russian nuclear workers in less dangerous economic sectors, as well as other efforts to ensure that Russians with nuclear expertise are kept promptly paid and fully employed. We recommend that the new national coordinator ensure that consequence management efforts for the unthinkable scenarios of a nuclear or radiological attack on the United States stand ready. We recommend that counterproliferation efforts be woven fully into U.S. grand strategy in the war against al Qaeda.