Presented at a Nuclear Deterrent Summit - “Establishing an International Framework to Deter the Entry of WMD into the U.S.”

Speech
Dec 5, 2008
Presented by William Tobey, Deputy Administrator, NNSA

Good afternoon.  It is an honor for me to speak today to such a distinguished and experienced group of colleagues on such an important topic.  It is especially noteworthy to see how comprehensive this conference’s discussion of nuclear deterrence is, including all aspects from security, safety and reliability, and of course, policy.  In my closing remarks, I hope to provide a slightly different perspective on “deterrence,” encompassing several aspects examined earlier this week, by discussing the establishment an international framework to deter the entry of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into the United States.

As Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), I am charged with leading NNSA’s efforts to reduce the global dangers of nuclear proliferation.  This complements NNSA’s mission to maintain the United States nuclear weapons stockpile.  NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation program engages more than 100 countries globally to advance nonproliferation objectives by detecting, securing, and eliminating dangerous nuclear and radiological materials.

Within this nonproliferation mission, one objective of utmost priority is strengthening international capacities to help prevent nuclear terrorism on U.S. soil.  This objective requires an international approach.  Our national security rests upon the ability of our international colleagues to recognize and respond to illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.

Though the nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism threats have evolved and will continue to, history shows us several facts that still hold true.  Nuclear proliferation requires a political decision, as well as access to nuclear material, knowledge and technology, and financial resources.  First, no one country that is not already a nuclear weapons state can indigenously provide all the necessary nuclear weapons “building blocks” of fissile material, technology, and equipment.  (The A.Q. Khan network illustrated this fact with its complex chain of global nuclear dual-use technology suppliers, though its covert nature amplified the complexity.)

Second, of these necessary proliferation ingredients, access to nuclear material is the most difficult for proliferators to acquire, making this step the most effective proliferation chokepoint.  Third, the rise of globalization makes the proliferator’s task significantly easier, and the nonproliferation task even more of a challenge.  Fourth, and accordingly, unilateral approaches alone cannot effectively address this threat.

These facts shape our nonproliferation response.  As part of this response, the establishment of an international framework to detect and deter illicit WMD-related trafficking is supported through a collection of multilateral initiatives, bilateral cooperation, and supporting unilateral policies.

Multilateral initiatives play an important role in this task, suggesting standards, providing assistance, and building consensus.  The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, criminalizing non-state proliferation and obligating all states to establish and maintain effective safeguards, security, and export controls, provides a foundation for this international framework.  The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism provides the practical means to achieve the legal mandates of UNSCR 1540.   Comprising over 70 members, the Global Initiative helps develop partnership capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to the global threat of nuclear terrorism through exercises, workshops and training, sharing of information and best practices, and the integration of resources and capabilities.

Bilateral partnerships and programs further, and often physically, construct the deterrence framework and help states meet international obligations such as UNSCR 1540.  Within the NNSA mission, several efforts build partner nation capacities to detect, deter, and even interdict WMD-related trafficking.

As an important complement to physical security improvements, the NNSA Second Line of Defense Program enhances our foreign partners’ ability to interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear materials through the deployment of radiation detection systems at high-risk land-border crossings, airports and seaports.  Focusing on the key nuclear material chokepoint, NNSA has installed radiation detection equipment at high-volume, strategic Megaports in 19 countries, with work underway in a total of 25 countries.  We have also equipped 160 Russian border crossings with radiation detection equipment, as well as another 53 border crossings in other countries.

We are also taking aggressive steps to interdict illicit transfers of weapons-usable nuclear materials and equipment, and to prevent dissemination of related sensitive nuclear technology via strengthened export controls and cooperation.

In just the last year, NNSA trained approximately 1,000 licensing, industry, and customs officers to assess export license applications and identify strategic commodities.  Our Commodity Identification Training, underway with more than 50 partner countries, trains frontline customs enforcement and export control officials to recognize WMD-related commodities shipped via commercial trade.  Our goal is to ensure that trained eyes monitor international commerce to prevent illicit nuclear trafficking.

Finally, while it may be difficult to deter terrorists—although they have been known to abandon plans that did not have what they judged to be a reasonable chance of success—we know that we can deter those who might assist terrorists.  Countries that might otherwise provide financial, material, or logistical support can be convinced that the risks outweigh the advantages.  The United States has made clear that it will hold any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction, and reserves the right to respond to such use with overwhelming force.  The new declaratory policy approved by President Bush in 2008 is designed to deter states or state entities from providing terrorists with WMD for use against the United States and our allies, and represents a major step forward in U.S. counterterrorism policy.

In closing, I am proud of NNSA’s contributions to this national and international security imperative, and am encouraged by the achievements of the multilateral partnerships and mechanisms mentioned.   Our nonproliferation work is by no means done, but we are safer now than before.  Together, we are making rapid strides in establishing a cohesive, global framework of WMD detection and deterrence, and I look forward to continued success.

Thank you.