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Hearing on nuke terrorism to be held by House panel on July 26

Lungren: probing last
line of defense

"The Last Line of Defense: Federal, State, and Local Efforts to Prevent Nuclear and Radiological Terrorism Within the United States" will be subject of a hearing on July 26 by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, which is chaired by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA).

Among those scheduled to testify at the forum, which will be held at 10 a.m. in room 311 of the Cannon House Office Building, are Warren M. Stern, director of the DHS's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.

In its progress report released last week on the implementation of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, DHS noted that in its 2012 budget request, it's proposing to expand its Securing the Cities (STC) initiative — which is designed to enhance the nation‘s ability to detect and prevent a radiological or nuclear attack in the highest risk cities — to include additional urban areas while continuing to support efforts in New York.

Through STC, nearly 11,000 personnel in the New York City region have been trained in preventive radiological and nuclear detection operations and nearly 6,000 pieces of radiological detection equipment have been deployed, the report said.

In April 2011, the DHS's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office DNDO and the New York Police Department sponsored a full-scale exercise for radiological and nuclear detection capabilities in the New York City region to assess the ability of STC partners to detect radiological and nuclear materials and deploy personnel, equipment and special units in accordance with established protocols and in response to threat-based intelligence.

In addition, the report noted, DNDO has initiated more than 250 research and development projects with national laboratory, academic, and industrial partners to advance detection technologies.  DNDO has also conducted more than 50 test and evaluation campaigns of detection equipment, which have informed federal, state, and local users of the technical and operational performance of various radiological and nuclear detection systems.    

Other officials expected to appear before the subcommittee Carl Pavetto, deputy associate administrator in the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Emergency Operations; Richard Daddario, deputy commissioner for counterterrorism in the New York City Police Department; Mark Perez, homeland security advisor for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; and David C. Maurer, director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO issued a report critical of the nation's ability to clean up a site after the detonation of a radiological dispersion device (RDD) or improvised nuclear device (IND).

"FEMA, the DHS agency responsible for developing a comprehensive emergency management system, has not developed a national disaster recovery strategy, as required by law, or issued specific guidance to coordinate federal, state, and local government recovery planning for RDD and IND incidents, as directed by executive guidance," the report noted.

"To date, most federal attention has been given to developing a response framework, with less attention to recovery," it continued. "Responding to an attack would involve evacuations and providing treatment to those injured; recovering from an attack would include cleaning up the radioactive contamination to permit people to return to their homes and businesses."

"Existing federal guidance provides limited direction for federal, state, and local agencies to develop recovery plans and to conduct exercises to test recovery preparedness. Of the over 90 RDD and IND exercises to test response capabilities in the last 6 years, only 3 included a recovery component," it added.

 

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