[Congressional Record: September 8, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S9135-S9139]                         


      By Mr. LIEBERMAN (for himself and Ms. Collins):
  S. 1649. A bill to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass 
destruction, to prepare for attacks using weapons of mass destruction, 
and for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I am pleased to join Senator Lieberman in 
introducing the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness 
Act of 2009. This legislation would increase our Nation's protections 
against an attack using WMDs.
  The bill implements many of the recommendations of the Commission on 
the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and 
Terrorism. Congress established that Commission in 2007 in legislation 
that Senator Lieberman and I coauthored.
  Heading the WMD Commission were former Senators Bob Graham and Jim 
Talent. Last December, the Commission produced a comprehensive report 
on the WMD threats to our Nation and provided recommendations to 
prevent further proliferation and acts of terrorism using these deadly 
weapons. The Commission's ``World at Risk'' report warned that it is 
``more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used 
in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.''
  The Commission's report is a call to action.
  The Commission reinforces the sense of urgency that the Homeland 
Security Committee has felt during its many hearings on deadly threats 
to the American people--threats that include terrorists dispersing 
anthrax spores, detonating a nuclear device in a major city, or 
striking with other weapons of mass destruction.
  In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress 
created the Department of Homeland Security, reformed our intelligence 
agencies, strengthened FEMA, increased grants for State and local first 
responders, and enhanced security at our seaports and chemical 
facilities. As the Commission observes, however, ``the terrorists have 
been active, too,'' and we must continue our efforts. Nuclear 
proliferation and advances in biotechnology give terrorists new methods

[[Page S9136]]

to carry out their avowed intention to commit mass murder.
  The mental images of nuclear blasts and mushroom clouds are powerful 
and frightening. As the WMD Commission rightly notes, however, the more 
likely threat is from a biological weapon. In contrast to nuclear 
weapons, the technological hurdle is lower to develop and disseminate 
bioweapons, access to pathogens is more widespread, and pathogens are 
harder to contain. The spread of biotechnology, the difficulty of 
detecting such pathogens, and terrorists' known interest in 
bioterrorism combine to produce an even greater menace.
  Bio-weapons are appealing to terrorists in part because we are 
unlikely to realize that an attack has occurred before it begins to 
kill many of its victims.
  Worldwide security has lagged behind the growth of this threat. Even 
within our own country, the Commission and GAO have found that we fail 
to secure potential biological weapons effectively. In July, the GAO 
found significant deficiencies in perimeter security at biological labs 
that handle the world's most dangerous biological agents and diseases, 
such as the Ebola virus and smallpox. Because no cure or treatment 
exists for some of the pathogens handled by these labs, this is 
  Thousands of individuals in the United States have access to 
dangerous pathogens. Currently there are about 400 research facilities 
and nearly 15,000 individuals in the U.S. authorized to handle the 
deadly pathogens on the ``Select Agent List.'' Indeed, the FBI has 
determined that a cleared scientist who worked at a regulated research 
lab likely carried out the Anthrax attacks on the Senate and the U.S. 
postal system in 2001.
  To counter this threat, the WMD Commission recommends increasing the 
security of biological laboratories that handle dangerous pathogens. 
This legislation would do so by establishing additional security 
measures for the most dangerous pathogens that terrorists are likely to 
use in an attack. A negotiated rulemaking--with Federal agencies and 
research institutions at the table--would develop these enhanced 
security standards. This would ensure that regulations, which make our 
Nation's labs more secure, would not have the unintended consequence of 
deterring legitimate research endeavors.
  In order to help fund the security enhancements at the highest-risk 
biolabs and avoid diverting research funding to security upgrades, the 
bill authorizes a grant program at $50 million for each of the next 
four years. This is a sufficient level of funding to ensure that each 
of the labs registered to handle the most dangerous pathogens could 
access funding.
  In response to another Commission finding that many research 
facilities that handle less strictly controlled, yet still dangerous 
pathogens are not even known to the government, the legislation 
requires registration of these labs. This system of enhanced security 
for labs with the most dangerous pathogens and the registration of labs 
that handle less dangerous pathogens will result in facility security 
requirements that are tiered based on the risk that a pathogen at a 
particular facility could be used in a biological attack.
  To better prepare the American people for a bio-weapon attack, the 
bill improves the government's ability to distribute medical 
countermeasures and requires actions to improve communications with the 
public before and during a biological attack. As the Commission wisely 
advised, citizens need to know what to expect during a biological 
attack and how they should respond.
  While security controls must be improved within our own country, 
global security problems are daunting. Countries like Syria do not 
adhere to the Biological Weapons Convention, which is the multilateral 
treaty that banned the development, production, and stockpiling of 
biological weapons. Other countries that signed the treaty may not be 
living up to these commitments.
  To address these international biosecurity threats, the bill requires 
that the Director of National Intelligence, DNI, report on countries 
that have facilities with the highest-risk pathogens and the security 
measures in place at these facilities. The DNI also must develop a 
strategy for improving the Federal Government's capabilities to 
collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence related to weapons of 
mass destruction.
  In addition, the bill would direct the Secretary of State to provide 
assistance to enhance security at laboratories with dangerous pathogens 
worldwide and to use exchange programs to train foreign nationals. In 
this way, foreign nationals can promote lab safety and detect disease 
outbreaks in their home countries.
  This legislation, which would implement the WMD Commission's 
recommendations, is an important and significant step forward in 
addressing the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction, and of 
bio-weapons in particular. Countering this threat is critical for the 
security of our Nation.

September 8, 2009

Contact: Sara Lonardo

Lieberman, Collins Seek to Protect U.S. Against Biological and Other Terrorist WMD Attacks

Legislation Responds To Warnings of a WMD Terrorist Attack By 2013

WASHINGTON - As the nation prepares to mark the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax attacks, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday introduced legislation to prevent and prepare for terrorist attacks from biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 responds to a statement by the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell in December 2008 and the findings of a Congressionally-mandated WMD commission that a WMD terrorist attack is more likely than not to occur by 2013 and that a biological attack is more likely than a nuclear attack.

"The approaching eighth anniversary of the 9/11 and anthrax attacks reminds us that we cannot let our guard down against the constant threat of terrorists intent on doing us harm," Lieberman said. "This legislation provides a comprehensive framework for protecting the United States from weapons of mass destruction and biological attacks, in particular, which the experts say is more likely than a nuclear attack.

"Our bill would strengthen security at labs using the most dangerous pathogens, improve our capabilities to assess the threat of terrorists acquiring WMD, ensure that citizens get critical safety information, and develop a means for quickly delivering life-saving drugs to areas that have been attacked.

"We dare not bury our heads in the sand and ignore the very real risks we face from a terrorist WMD attack. This legislation would help prevent such an attack and better prepare the nation to respond should one occur."

"As the Commission noted in its comprehensive report, terrorists have been active since the attacks of September 11, 2001. America must not become complacent. Terrorists haven't given up; they haven't gone away. Our enemies remain fixed on their avowed goal of committing mass murder," said Collins. "Nuclear proliferation and advances in biotechnology could give terrorists new means to wreak death and destruction around the world. That is why the Commission's report is a call to action. And this legislation answers that call by proposing aggressive, urgent steps that will help safeguard our nation, particularly against the threat of biological attacks."

The Lieberman/Collins legislation implements the recommendations of the Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, and would improve biosecurity by identifying the most dangerous pathogens and then requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop security standards for laboratories that handle those pathogens, including risk assessments, personnel reliability programs, and physical security.

The bill also would improve U.S. prevention against and preparedness for an attack in an effort to minimize casualties and prevent mass destruction. It would:

Require DHS to designate the most dangerous pathogens which have significant potential to be used effectively in a biological attack.

Require DHS to set new security standards for labs using the most dangerous pathogens, including risk assessments, personnel reliability programs, and staff training.

Require a national strategy for dispensing antibiotics and other medicines to the public and expand a pilot program for using the Postal Service to dispense them.

Require communications plans to convey instructions to the public - including whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place - in the critical moments after an attack.

Support a National Bioforensics Analysis Center to identify the perpetrator of a WMD attack rapidly.

Provide personal medical kits to emergency responders in order to enable them to respond quickly to a WMD attack without jeopardizing their own safety.

Require DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide better terrorism threat and risk assessments to the public.

Promote citizen and community preparedness for WMD attacks, including by authorizing grants to States.

In addition, the legislation requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to develop a strategy for improving intelligence on WMD and terrorism, including hiring scientists and improving language capabilities. Finally, the legislation requires that the Secretary of State promote international adherence to agreements such as the Biological Weapons Convention, provide biosecurity training to countries that possess dangerous pathogens, and assist countries with training and equipment to improve global disease surveillance.

The WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009 is the latest example of the Committee's leadership in countering terrorism and preserving homeland security. Since 9/11, the Committee has authored a series of landmark legislation that: created the Department of Homeland Security, the DNI and the National Counterterrorism Center; reformed the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina; and implemented the full spectrum of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.


Source: Office of Senator Lieberman