U.S. Agencies Work Closely to Prevent Nuclear Terror: Pentagon

A high-level U.S. Defense Department official said last week that various sectors of the federal government collaborate closely to prevent violent extremists from acquiring nuclear arms or weapon-usable substances (see GSN, Jan. 18).

Participants in this effort include the Pentagon, the Energy Department's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, national laboratories and other branches of the U.S. government, according to Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Steve Henry.

President Obama has identified nuclear terrorism as "the single biggest threat to the United States' security," a Pentagon press release quoted Henry as saying during a deterrence summit in Arlington, Va. (see GSN, Feb. 16).

"In his words, 'just one nuclear weapon exploded in an American city would devastate our way of life and constitute nothing less than a catastrophe for the world," Henry said. "For this reason, as the most recent Nuclear Posture Review outlined, the series of policies reflect the gravity of this threat."

The official added: "We work closely with NNSA nuclear nonproliferation to align programs, expand efforts to improve global nuclear security and avoid redundant efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials getting into the hands of terrorist organizations" (see GSN, Feb. 14).

Officials from relevant agencies conduct regular gatherings to assessing matters including continuing initiatives, collaboration with partner governments, and efforts against terrorists and the spread of sensitive weapons.

"These meetings have created several standing working groups ... including technical expert groups, involving our policy counterparts and program leads," according to Henry. "We work together to better understand the threat and the appropriate response to a common understanding of the threat" (U.S. Defense Department release, Feb. 17).

February 21, 2012
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A high-level U.S. Defense Department official said last week that various sectors of the federal government collaborate closely to prevent violent extremists from acquiring nuclear arms or weapon-usable substances.

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