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Washington, DC - On April 15, 2008, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Ashton B. Carter testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at its hearing on "Nuclear Terrorism: Confronting the Challenges of the Day After."
In his testimony, Carter discussed the actions that would be necessary in the 24 hours following a nuclear detonation in an American city, and reported the five key findings from the Preventive Defense Project's April 2007 workshop on "The Day After." Those key findings included:
With proper advance preparation, much could be done to save lives, reduce the cost to the country as a whole, and ensure that our nation, and civilization more broadly, endures.
Other expert witnesses included Cham E. Dallas (Director, Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense, University of Georgia), Roger Molander (Senior Research Scientist, RAND), John R. Gibb (Director, New York State Emergency Management Office).
This hearing was the third in a series examining nuclear terrorism, and is one of Congress's first attempts to examine the consequences of a nuclear terrorist attack and our ability to respond.
On February 13, the first hearing ("Defense Department's Homeland Security Role: How the Military Can and Should Contribute") examined the role of DOD, especially the National Guard and Reserves, in supporting civilian authorities during and after a nuclear attack. Three retired military officials provided testimony describing the final report of the independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, titled Transforming the National Guard and Reserves into a 21st-Century Operational Force. Witnesses included Major General Arnold L. Punaro, USMCR (Ret.) and Chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves; Lieutenant General James E. Sherrard, III, USAFR (Ret.) and Commissioner of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, and Major General E. Gordon Stump, ANG (Ret.) and Commissioner of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.
The second hearing ("Nuclear Terrorism: Assessing the Threat to the Homeland"), held on April 2, examined the scale and the nature of the nuclear threat, with a particular focus on the intentions and capabilities of terrorist groups. (LINK) In the first panel, Charles E. Allen (Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis and Chief Intelligence Officer, Department of Homeland Security) and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen (Director, Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Department of Energy) discussed the intelligence component of the threat assessment. In the second panel, Matthew Bunn (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University) considered the supply side or nuclear terrorism, while Gary Ackerman (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, University of Maryland) examined the demand side of the equation.
Future hearings on this issue will likely examine specific issues related to our response capabilities, such as public health concerns, as well as the challenges of evacuating, sheltering, and providing care for the affected population.
Ash Carter, Ford Foundation professor of science and international affairs
Photo by Martha Stewart
"Nothing I can tell you from our report would make the Day After anything less than the worst in the history of the Republic. No greater failure of our government's duty to national security could occur than to let this catastrophic event befall our people. Yet it turns out that much could be done to save lives, reduce the cost to the country as a whole, and ensure that our nation, and civilization more broadly, endures," Carter told the committee.