By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 24, 2013 – The Defense Department and other U.S government agencies are actively pursuing methods to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists and hostile actors, a senior defense official told Congress yesterday.
Madelyn R. Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee alongside representatives of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and National Nuclear Security Administration in a hearing on nonproliferation activities.
“As we all are very well aware, we face a number of WMD challenges,” she said. “The three of us, together, are aggressively pursuing the president’s vision to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists and states of concern.”
Creedon cited North Korea, Iran and Syria as states of concern, “just to mention a few.”
“One of the most worrisome scenarios we face is the prospect of a dangerous WMD crisis involving the theft or loss of control of weapons or materials of concern that end up in the hands of hostile actors,” she said. “As the situation in Syria illustrates, instability in states pursuing or possessing WMD could lead to just such a crisis.”
To meet these challenges, she said, the Defense Department is focused on three areas: preventing WMD acquisition, containing and rolling back the threats, and responding to a WMD crisis.
"Preventing a WMD crisis requires cooperation with our international partners, and the Proliferation Security Initiative is a good example of that," Creedon said. More than 100 PSI endorsers participate in exercises and other cooperative efforts, she explained. The United Arab Emirates hosted the most recent exercise, in which 29 partners participated, she added.
“We are now on the verge of celebrating [the Proliferation Security Initiative’s] 10th anniversary,” Creedon added. “And our Polish allies will be hosting that particular celebration of accomplishments, and also looking forward to the next 10 years.”
Creedon said the initiative is an interesting concept with U.S. allies, because it isn’t included in any budget line and it comes out of general exercise funding.
“But in the fiscal environment that we’re now facing, we are looking at the idea of developing a specific line item dedicated for PSI activities,” she noted. “And we’ll probably be presenting these in the construct of the [fiscal year 2015] budget.”
Beyond preventing acquisition, Creedon said, officials are focused on containing and rolling back WMD threats. “And one of the most important tools that we use to accomplish this is the [Cooperative Threat Reduction] program,” she said.
The flexibility of the program’s legislation has allowed it to expand its work, both geographically -- most recently in the Middle East -- and functionally, as well, Creedon said.
One of Cooperative Threat Reduction’s major focuses, she added, is addressing the threat posed by serious chemical weapons. “To address the proliferation threat from these weapons, CTR is funding the second portion of Jordan’s border security project, which will increase Jordan’s ability to mitigate proliferation along the 256-kilometer border with Syria,” she told the Senate panel.
Creedon also said Cooperative Threat Reduction is working in Africa to improve safety and security, and is part of a partnership developing with Germany that seeks to destroy Libya’s chemical weapon stockpile.
“CTR is also working to improve biological security and increasing partner capacity in Kenya and Uganda, and to enhance maritime surveillance capabilities and capacity in Southeast Asia,” she added.
Creedon said the functional expansions initially were developed to assist with the close collaboration that DOD enjoys with the Energy Department. “DOE negotiates high-priority transfers of material -- mostly nuclear material -- to more secure locations for storage and re-processing,” she explained.
The Defense Department has specific capabilities and training to transport this material, Creedon said, and as a result, is developing a transportation determination that will allow “more nimble” collaboration with DOE.
“These examples also demonstrated that the CTR program remains responsive to the current and emerging security environment,” she said. “We have pushed the environment, and we will continue to do so when we believe it will reduce WMD threats.”
Creedon said if efforts to contain and roll back WMD threats fail, the United States must be prepared to respond, and the recently activated Standing Joint Force Headquarters Elimination has this responsibility.
“In addition to the unique support it provides to the combatant commands, this year the standing headquarters [will] participate in major exercises with South Korea, France and the United Kingdom,” she said.
Despite a shrinking budget, Creedon said, the Defense Department is committed to meeting the nation’s counter-WMD requirements.
“None of the efforts I have described would be possible without the continuing support of Congress,” she added, “and I thank you for your support of our fiscal year 2014 budget.”