WASHINGTON, D.C. ­– The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday approved the Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act, S. 1649.  The bill was introduced by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., and was approved by a vote of 8-1.

            “This is an urgently needed bill, and I am pleased the Committee has moved it forward,” Lieberman said.  “Former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and the Graham-Talent WMD Commission have warned us that a terrorist WMD attack is likely to occur by 2013, and that a biological attack is more likely than a nuclear attack.  A WMD attack would have horrific consequences. Yet, we are still not properly prepared, despite measures taken after the 2001 anthrax attacks.

            “WMD prevention and preparedness is a difficult problem to tackle, given its complexity and the fact that many of its component issues cut across government agencies and directly affect nongovernmental stakeholders.  But this Committee has not been deterred from doing what we believed was right in the past and we are doing the same here.”

            Collins applauded the committee’s vote, saying urgency was paramount.  “The WMD Commission has warned us of the consequences of not acting,” she said.  “We have worked with other committees, agencies, and stakeholders for almost a year.  Because of the grave nature of the threat, we can wait no longer—the time to act is now.  We must move swiftly to strengthen and improve our nation’s biological defenses and security systems.”

            The bill would create a comprehensive framework for protecting the U.S. from WMD generally and biological attacks in particular by identifying the most dangerous biological pathogens and strengthening security at the labs that use them. It would require the government to develop a method to distribute medical countermeasures to victims and first responders, and shape communications strategies that can quickly disseminate life-saving information to the public.  Six amendments to the bill were approved at a mark-up last week.

            In other action, the Committee approved:

·         S. 1862, U.S. Secret Service Retirement Act of 2009

·         H.R. 553, Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2009, as amended

·         S. 1755, Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009

·         H.R. 730, Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act, as amended

·         S. 1825, a bill to extend the authority for relocation expenses test programs for Federal employees

·         S. 1860, a bill to permit each current member of the Board of Directors of the Office of Compliance to serve for 3 terms

·         Ten postal naming bills



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