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Indian appointed to anti-WMD commission

June 06, 2008 22:49 IST

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

Verma, who has earlier served as senior national security adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada Democrat), was appointed to the newly formed 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 programmes 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 Senator Bob Graham, who represented Florida in the Senate from 1986 to 2004, 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. Another former Senator Jim Talent, currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, will be the vice-chair.

Joining Verma on the Commission 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, Non-proliferation Policy Education Center; Stephen Rademaker, senior counsel, BGR Holding, LLC; and Robin Cleveland, principal, Olivet Consulting, LLC.

Verma expressed gratitude to Senator Reid for nominating him, and said "There's probably no more important security challenge facing our country than keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. Hopefully, the work of the commission will help guide the new Congress and administration in this key area."

Noting the depth of experience his fellow commissioners bring to the table, Verma said, "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. It's a big challenge, but one I am looking forward to."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC