Testimony
Thomas Countryman
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Washington, DC
March 14, 2012


Chairman Akaka, thank you for inviting us here to discuss U.S. efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the globe. This mission is vital to the national security of the United States, Congressional support remains critical. And we deeply appreciate your personal engagement in the issue.

In his Prague speech, President Obama laid out his vision for a world without nuclear weapons and free from the threat of nuclear terrorism. A year later at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, participants emphasized the need for each state to take responsibility for the security of nuclear materials under its control. And each state made specific commitments to advance nuclear security.

Now, to follow through, the U.S. has a three-tiered strategy to lock down or remove vulnerable nuclear materials. First at the site level, second at the country level, and third at the global level.

At the site level, we work with other countries to minimize the civilian use of highly enriched uranium, to eliminate unneeded weapons usable material and to improve security at specific sites.

Where site level assistance is not appropriate, we cooperate at the country level with foreign governments to exchange best practices and to demonstrate the safe use of equipment.

At the global level, we develop global initiatives through the nuclear security summit process, the United Nations, and other for a to improve nuclear security around the world.

As we do this important work to keep Americans safe, we use tax dollars wisely through the G8 global partnership against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and through the United Nations 1540 committee, we encourage international partners to share the cost of improving security.

Building a safer world and protecting the American people also requires that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the resources and authority to carry out its vital mission as the global focal point for nuclear cooperation. We're confident that every effort is made to advance our shared interests in peaceful nuclear uses and security.

With this three-tiered strategy, we've made significant progress in the four-year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials. Still the persistence of illicit trafficking as you referred to of weapons usable nuclear materials demonstrates that efforts to consolidate materials and secure facilities are not enough.

My bureau, ISN at the state department have several programs to promote this international capacity to detect and investigate cases of nuclear material outside proper control.

First, the nuclear smuggling outreach initiative is a State Department led interagency effort to develop partnerships with key countries to combat nuclear smuggling. Second our preventing nuclear smuggling program works to leverage international funding to promote law enforcement cooperation and nuclear forensics cooperation.

Third, our bureau's export control and border security program leads interagency efforts to build comprehensive export and border control systems in more than 50 partner countries. And fourth, we lead the U.S. engagement with a global initiative to combat nuclear terrorism, a partnership of 83 nations that conduct activities to strengthen plans, policies, and interoperability on the issue of nuclear terrorism.

In terms of Congressional support for the fight against the proliferation of WMD, in addition to providing us the resources we need to do this important national security job and to keep Americans safe, we also need your help to fill critical gaps in the international legal framework of nuclear security.

In 2008, the Senate provided advice and consent unanimously to ratification of four nuclear security related treaties including the Nuclear Terrorism Convention. I strongly urge Congress to expeditiously enact the implementing legislation for these treaties in the national security interest of the American people.

Finally let me stress the reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism is a complicated task, but the interagency is working well to meet this challenge. My colleagues not only from Energy and Defense, but also Justice, Homeland, Security and others work together well.

With your support, we will continue to do what we can to protect the American people. Thank you, sir.