VLG Technical Note—2010-4-13
The so-called Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act
The Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 1996, Pub.L. 104-201, September 23, 1996 (also known as the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Act) was a direct response to a number of developments in the world. Additionally, the 1996 Atlanta Olympics had raised grave concerns in the mind of Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia as to the preparedness of the United States against the threat of terrorist attacks. In fact there was a bombing at the Olympics with one death and over 100 injured. In the spring of 1996, Senator Nunn held a number of hearings on preparedness issues after his staff were unable to get accurate and convincing information from the Executive Branch on its arrangements and preparation for the Olympics. These hearings led directly to this statute which set in place a long term effort to prepare domestic response the increased threats. Although the authors of the act had wanted to have civil agencies, particularly FEMA, lead the training and equipping of first responders, FEMA testimony led the Senate staff to the conclusion that only DOD had the knowledge and assets to upgrade preparedness. Believing that long-term the function was one for the civil agencies, the Act provided that after three years the function could be transferred from DOD to some other lead agency with the President’s approval. The transfer was made to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1999 and the Office of State and Local Domestic Preparedness became the lead. Both FEMA and this organization are now in the new Department of Homeland Security created by Pub.L. 107-296.
Most of the statutory authority in the Act is of little lasting significance. What is of lasting significance given changes in the perception of the terrorist threat in the United States since September 11, 2001 is the Acts premises. The Congressional findings stated in section 1402 of the Act, however, are of continuing interest. This specific listing is taken from Appendix E of a RAND study “Preparing the U.S. Army for Homeland Security, Concepts, Issues, and Options” by Eric V. Larson and John E. Peters (Arroyo Center, 2001).
(1) WMD and related materials and technologies are increasingly available from world-wide sources. Technical information related to such weapons is readily available on the Internet, and raw materials for chemical, biological, and radiological weapons are widely available for legitimate commercial purposes.
(2) The former Soviet Union produced and maintained a vast array of NBC WMD.
(3) Many of the states of the former Soviet Union retain the facilities, materials, and technologies capable of producing additional quantities of WMD.
(4) The disintegration of the former Soviet Union was accompanied by disruptions of command and control systems, deficiencies in accountability for weapons, weapons-related materials and technologies, economic hardships, and significant gaps in border control among the states of the former Soviet Union. The problems of organized crime and corruption in the states of the former Soviet Union increase the potential for proliferation of nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical weapons and related materials.
(5) The conditions described in paragraph (4) have substantially increased the ability of potentially hostile nations, terrorist groups, and individuals to acquire WMD and related materials and technologies from within the states of the former Soviet Union and from unemployed scientists who worked on those programs.
(6) As a result of such conditions, the capability of potentially hostile nations and terrorist groups to acquire nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical weapons is greater than at any time in history.
(7) The President has identified North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and Libya as hostile states that already possess some WMD and are developing others.
(8) The acquisition or the development and use of WMD are well within the capability of many extremist and terrorist movements, acting independently from or as proxies for foreign states.
(9) Foreign states can transfer weapons to or otherwise aid extremist and terrorist movements indirectly and with plausible deniability.
(10) Terrorist groups have already conducted chemical attacks against civilian targets in the United States and Japan and a radiological attack in Russia.
(11) The potential for the national security of the United States to be threatened by nuclear, radiological, chemical, or biological terrorism must be take seriously.
(12) There is a significant and growing threat of attack by WMD on targets not military in the usual sense of the term.
(13) Concomitantly, the threat posed to the citizens of the United States by nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical weapons delivered by unconventional means is significant and growing.
(14) Mass terror may result from terrorist incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical materials.
(15) Facilities required for production of radiological, biological, and chemical weapons are much smaller and harder to detect than nuclear weapons facilities, and biological and chemical weapons can be deployed by delivery means other than long-range ballistic missiles.
(16) Covert or unconventional means of delivery of nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical weapons include cargo ships, passenger aircraft, commercial and private vehicles and vessels, and commercial cargo shipments routed through multiple destinations.
(17) Traditional arms control efforts assume large state efforts with detectable manufacturing programs and weapons production programs but are ineffective in monitoring and controlling smaller, though potentially more dangerous, unconventional proliferation efforts.
(18) Conventional counterproliferation efforts would do little to detect or prevent the rapid development of a capability to suddenly manufacture several hundred chemical or biological weapons with nothing but commercial supplies and equipment.
(19) The United States lacks adequate planning and countermeasures to address the threat of nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical terrorism.
(20) The Department of Energy has established a Nuclear Emergency Response Team that is available in case of nuclear or radiological emergencies, but no comparable units exist to deal with emergencies involving biological or chemical weapons or related material. [Note the so-call NEST has been made part of the new Department of Homeland Security created by Pub.L. 107-296]
(21) State and local emergency response personnel are not adequately prepared or trained for incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical materials.
(22) Exercises of the federal, state, and local response to nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical terrorism have revealed serious deficiencies in preparedness and severe problems of coordination.
(23) The development of, and allocation of responsibilities for , effective countermeasures to nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical terrorism in the United States requires well-coordinated participation of many federal agencies and careful planning by the federal government and state and local governments.
(24) Training and exercises can significantly improve the preparedness of state and local emergency response personnel for emergencies involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons or related materials.
(25) Sharing of the expertise and capabilities of the DOD, which traditionally has provided assistance to federal, state, and local officials in neutralizing, dismantling, and disposing of explosive ordnance, as well as radiological, biological, and chemical materials, can be a vital contribution to the development and deployment of countermeasures against NBC WMD.
(26) The United States lacks effective policy coordination regarding the threat posed by the proliferation of WMD.
In the fourteen years that will have passed since enactment of Nunn-Lugar-Domenici it would be interesting if any particular group of experts could agree on whether the United States has made consistent progress, if any, on many of these issues.