CISAC's Siegfried Hecker testifies before Senate Appropriations Committee

Siegfried Hecker testified April 30, 2008, about the importance of expanding the cooperative threat reduction programs to counter the growing proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons capability. A formal written statement is also available: Hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development

Thank you Chairman Dorgan, Senator Domenici and distinguished members of the Committee for giving me the opportunity to comment on the National Nuclear Security Administration's Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation programs and its 2009 budget request. I have a written statement that I would like to submit for the record.

This morning I will summarize the three main points in my statement. My opinions have been shaped by 34 years at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and nearly 20 years of practicing nonproliferation with my feet on the ground in places like Russia, China, India, North Korea and Kazakhstan.  Much of this I have done with the strong support and encouragement of Senator Domenici.

1) The proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons capability is growing. Today, we face a nuclear threat in North Korea, nuclear ambitions in Iran, a nuclear puzzle in Syria, recently nuclear-armed states in Pakistan and India, and an improved, but not satisfactory, nuclear security situation in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. The danger of nuclear terrorism is real. This is not a fight the United States can win alone. We cannot simply push the dangers beyond our borders. It is imperative to forge effective global partnerships to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Meeting these challenges requires diplomatic initiative and technical cooperation. The United States must lead international diplomacy and DOE/NNSA must provide technical leadership and capabilities. The NNSA has done a commendable job in nuclear threat reduction and combating nuclear proliferation. However, funds to support these activities are not commensurate with the magnitude or the urgency of the threat.

2) CTR began with Nunn-Lugar followed by Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation directed at the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union. We must stay engaged with Russia and the other states of the Soviet Union. Much progress has been made, but more needs to be done. We have to change the nature of the partnership to one in which Russia carries more of the burden.

We should expand the cooperative reduction programs aggressively to other countries that require technical or financial assistance. The nuclear threat exists wherever nuclear materials exist. These materials cannot be eliminated, but they can be secured and safeguarded. We should more strongly support the International Atomic Energy Agency and provide more support to countries that try to implement UNSCR 1540 to prevent nuclear terrorism, for example.

We should enlist other nations such as China, India, and for that matter, Russia, to build a strong global partnership to prevent proliferation and combat nuclear terrorism. China and India have for the most part sat on the sidelines while the U.S. has led the fight. Russia has not engaged commensurate with its nuclear status. These efforts are particularly important if nuclear energy is to experience a real renaissance.

3) The hallmark of all of these efforts must be technology, partnership and in-country presence. The DOE/NNSA has in its laboratories the principal nuclear expertise in this country. It should be applauded for sending its technical experts around the world, often in very difficult situations (I met up with the DOE team in North Korea on a bitterly cold February day). However, both for structural reasons and budgetary shortfalls, that technical talent is slowing fading away. We do not have in place the necessary personnel recruitment or the working environment in the laboratories or the pipeline of students in our universities to replenish that talent. I strongly support the NNSA's Next Generation Safeguards Initiative, which is aimed at tackling this problem.

Mr. Chairman, when I first visited Russia's secret cities in 1992 shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, I feared that its collapse may trigger a nuclear catastrophe. The fact that nothing really terrible has happened in the intervening 16 years is in great part due to the DOE/NNSA programs that your are considering today. We must now be just as innovative and creative to deal with the changing nuclear threat today.

In my statement I also mention the implications of my recent trips to North Korea and to India. However, since I am out of time, I will need to leave those for your questions.

Thank you for your attention.