Seven years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the federal government
has made only limited progress toward preventing a catastrophic
nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil and combating the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction abroad, according to a
report card to be issued tomorrow by 22 former U.S. officials.
The bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America gave the United
States an overall grade of C. The government received in total three
D's, eight C's and seven B's in areas such as sustaining support of
foreign scientists and governments, integrating programs to prevent
nuclear terrorism and strengthening multilateral law enforcement
The group urged the next president to appoint a cabinet-level White
House coordinator with the authority to direct counterproliferation
plans, programs and funding "from day one." The panel was co-chaired by
Lee H. Hamilton (D), former congressman and vice chairman of the 9/11
Commission, and Warren Rudman (R), former senator and co-chairman of a
2001 blue-ribbon commission on terrorism.
"The threat of a new major terrorist attack on the United States is
still very real," Hamilton, Rudman and former New Jersey governor
Thomas H. Kean (R), chairman of the 9/11 Commission, wrote in the
report's introduction. A nuclear, chemical or biological weapon in the
hands of terrorists was "the single greatest threat to our nation,"
they said, and concluded, "We are still dangerously vulnerable."
The report marks the latest effort by former leaders of the
commission and other national security experts to re-focus efforts to
counter weapons-of-mass-destruction threats after years of bureaucratic
drift. In a similar report card issued in 2005, the Sept. 11 panel's
successor gave U.S. counterproliferation efforts a D.
The partnership's advisory board includes several 9/11 Commission
members; national security advisers to Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald
Reagan and Bill Clinton; and former senior lawmakers and officials
whose service stretches back to the Kennedy administration.
The report comes as the Democratic-controlled Congress has
established a panel to expand U.S. and international programs designed
to counter use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists.
Former Clinton State Department official Wendy R. Sherman, a member
of the congressional panel, called the partnership's report a "helpful
and useful tool."
"Our report will deepen both the assessment of the threat today and
what we can do about it," Sherman said. The group is scheduled to issue
its report by November.
The partnership's report card makes three main recommendations: The
government should appoint a White House adviser with power to make
funding decisions for counterproliferation programs, coordinate all
such government programs under a strategic plan and strengthen
"We can no longer afford to hope that our patchwork of programs and
initiatives will naturally cohere into an effective whole," according
to the report, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post.
"The United States cannot be safe working alone."
The government earned its highest marks for interdicting nuclear
weapons and materials abroad, destroying half the U.S. chemical weapons
stockpile and restricting access to bioterrorism agents in former
But the group said there has been little progress integrating
piecemeal nuclear terrorism programs or sustaining long-term support
from foreign governments. It sharply criticized disengagement from
multilateral efforts such as the Biological Weapons Convention.
"Globalization, privatization, rapid transportation, instant
communications" are spreading proliferation capabilities to developing
states and private entities around the world, said Brian D. Finlay,
co-director of the Cooperative Nonproliferation Program at the Henry L.
Stimson Center, a Washington think tank.
Finlay noted how the focus of U.S. counterproliferation experts has
expanded beyond advanced industrial states to countries such as
Pakistan, Malaysia and Burma, and even tiny states that permit
foreign-owned ships to fly their flags, such as Barbados. "You look at
the ability of some of these countries . . . to prevent proliferation,
and it's nonexistent," he said.