By Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) This article first appeared in The Hill.
Despite the partisanship that currently afflicts our nation’s politics, there is at least one issue that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on – the need to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear bomb-making materials. Solidifying the historic legacy of American leadership in countering nuclear terrorism, more than fifty heads of state will gather today for the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. The summit will bring together world leaders to strengthen global defenses against nuclear terrorism, one of the gravest threats to our security. The international nature of this gathering is critical; without a global effort to strengthen global defenses against nuclear terrorism, we could easily fall short.
In the United States, enhancing global nuclear security has been an area of bipartisan cooperation for more than two decades. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union caused command and control of the vast Soviet nuclear stockpile to unravel, and there was no accounting system to track nuclear weapons or materials. Fences surrounding installations that housed the Soviet nuclear arsenal were riddled with gaping holes, and there was no system to detect individuals who might steal weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. Scientists with the knowledge to create weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were suddenly jobless, and countless individuals – including guards at nuclear facilities – were struggling under hard economic times, giving them an incentive to steal nuclear material and sell it to the highest bidder. The challenge to keep Soviet weapons, materials, and expertise off the black market was overwhelming.