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Indian-American appointed to top US Commission

May 22, 2008 01:15 IST

Rahul 'Richard'Verma, a partner with the top-notch international law firm in Washington, DC -- Steptoe & Johnson LLP -- who, until recently was the highest-ranking Indian American Congressional aide on Capitol Hill, has been appointed to the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

 

Verma, the erstwhile senior national security adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was appointed to this newly formed Congressional Commission by the Congressional leadership comprising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Reid, House Republican Leader John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

 

The Commission, established by House Resolution 1, implements a key recommendation of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission and builds on the Congressional commitment to address the threat that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction poses to the United States.

 

It is envisaged to assess the nation's current activities, initiatives, and programs aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism "while providing a clear comprehensive strategy with concrete recommendations to achieve this crucial goal."

 

The legislation requires the Commission to issue a report within 180 days and will "ensure that stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction will remain a pillar of American foreign policy".

 

Former US Senator Bob Graham, who represented Florida in the US Senate from 1986 to 2004, and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee for 10 years and chaired the committee during the lead-up to the Iraq war, will chair the new Commission. Graham is currently chair of the Graham Center for Public Service, University of Florida and University of Miami.

 

Another former US Senator, Jim Talent, currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation -- a conservative think tank in Washington -- will be the vice-chair.

 

Other Commissioners, besides Verma, are former Congressman Timothy J Roemer, president of the Center for National Policy, former Ambassador Wendy Sherman, principal, Albright Group LLC, Professor Graham Allison, director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former assistant secretary of state, Henry Sokolski, executive director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Stephen Rademaker, senior counsel, BGR Holding, LLC, and Robin Cleveland, principal, Olivet Consulting, LLC.

 

Verma told rediff.com that "it is a real honor to serve on this Commission, and I am grateful to Senator Reid for nominating me".

 

"There's probably no more important security challenge facing our country that keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists," he said.

 

"Hopefully, the work of the Commission will help guide the new Congress and Administration in this key area."

 

Verma said, "I am so impressed with the depth of experience of the Commission members, with three former members of Congress, a former Ambassador and several experts in the field of nonproliferation."

 

"I look forward to learning from them, and drawing upon my own experiences on Capitol Hill, the military and overseas to add to the Commission's efforts," he said, and acknowledged, "It's a big challenge, but one I am looking forward to."

 

The specific areas the Commission will address include:

 

  • The activities, initiatives, and programs to secure all nuclear weapons -- usable material around the world and to significantly accelerate, expand, and strengthen, on an urgent basis, US and international efforts to prevent, stop, and counter the spread of nuclear weapons capabilities and related equipment, material, and technology to terrorists and states of concern.

 

  • The roles, missions, and structure of all relevant government departments, agencies, and other actors, including the Office of the United States Coordinator for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

 

  • Interagency coordination.

 

  • US commitments to international regimes and cooperation with other countries.

 

  • The threat of weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism to the United States and its interests and allies, including the threat posed by black-market networks, and the effectiveness of the responses by the United States and the international community to such threats.

 

  • Follow-on Baker-Cutler report -- The Commission would reassess, and where necessary update and expand on, the conclusions and recommendations of the report titled, 'A Report Card on the Department of Energy's Nonproliferation Programs with Russia,' of January 2001(also known as the Baker-Cutler Report'") and implementation of its recommendations.

 

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC