Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee about the FY 2020 budget May 5, 2019, in Washington. (DHS photo by Tim Godbee)

Bipartisan, Bicameral Homeland Security Committee Leaders Press DHS on Reported Changes to WMD Counterterrorism Programs

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee are pressing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for answers following recent reports that the Administration has scaled back programs focused on preventing terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and U.S. Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) and Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, urged DHS to address concerns that abrupt changes to key counterterrorism programs could put national security at risk.

“Recently, after speaking with over 30 current and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and contractors, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Department has quietly dismantled or cut back multiple programs that were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to help detect and prevent terrorism,” the committee leaders wrote in the letter. “This reporting raises serious concerns that the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) may be struggling with its mission, which is to plan for, detect, and protect against the importation and use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials in the United States and to protect against an attack using such materials.”

The Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office’s mission is to protect against the use of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons. The training, coordination, and detection programs CWMD manages are a key component of protecting homeland security. Since 2017, there have been chemical attacks in Malaysia and Syria, a thwarted chemical attack in Australia, and extremists have threated the use of chemical and biological weapons against the West. Recent reporting and a GAO report indicate CWMD may not be fulfilling its mission to safeguard against these types of attacks due to decisions made by the Administration to curtail the office’s programs.

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