H.R. 730 Senate Amendments: Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act

H.R. 730

Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act

Sponsor
Rep. Adam B. Schiff

Date
January 20, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

Senate Amendments to H.R. 730 is expected to be considered on Wednesday, January 20, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage.  The legislation was introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on January 27, 2009.  The House passed the bill on March 24, 2009, by a vote of 402-16, and the Senate passed the bill with amendments on December 23, 2009.

 

Bill Summary

.R. 730, as amended by the Senate, would expand the responsibilities of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) by calling on it to develop a national strategic five-year plan for improving nuclear forensic and attribution capabilities.

Sense of Congress:  The legislation expresses the sense of Congress that the President should pursue international agreements to establish an international framework for determining the source of any confiscated nuclear or radiological material or weapon, as well as the source of any detonated weapon and the nuclear or radiological material used in such a weapon.  It would also express the sense of Congress that the President should develop protocols for data exchange and dissemination of sensitive information relating to nuclear or radiological materials and samples of controlled nuclear or radiological materials as well as develop expedited protocols for the data exchange and dissemination of sensitive information needed to publicly identify the source of a nuclear detonation.

National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center: The bill requires the establishment of a National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center, to provide centralized planning, assessment, and integration for federal nuclear forensics activities to ensure an enduring national technical nuclear forensics capability and strengthen the collective response of the U.S. to nuclear terrorism or attacks.

Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program:  The bill establishes a National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program devoted to developing and maintaining an academic pathway from undergraduate to post-doctorate study in nuclear and geochemical science specialties directly relevant to technical nuclear forensics.  It directs the Office to establish a four-year undergraduate student scholarship program and a five-year doctoral student program.  The National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program would create faculty awards to ensure faculty and their graduate students receive a sustained funding stream.  

The program would seek to reinvigorate technical nuclear forensics programs and would "place a particular emphasis" on encouraging the participation of undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, Alaska Native-serving institutions, and Hawaiian Native-serving institutions.  Some Members may be concerned that through this provision the bill provides funding to Native Hawaiians, a racial group which is not a tribe.  Such financial assistance on the basis of race would likely be subject to "strict scrutiny" in federal courts and is presumptively unconstitutional.

Funding:  The bill does not include specific funding authorization for the expanded responsibility of DNDO.  The bill as passed by the House authorized $30 million annually through Fiscal Year 2011.

 

Background

Nuclear forensics is the scientific method for identifying the source of nuclear material. Typically, nuclear specialists use a unique "isotopic signature" found in radioactive material much like a fingerprint to track down the origin of the nuclear matter. Technical nuclear forensics is a critical component of attribution. A robust attribution program may deter states from aiding terrorists' efforts to carry out nuclear terrorism. However, the workforce in the technical fields of nuclear forensics has been deteriorating in recent decades. This bill seeks to reinvigorate the workforce pipeline to guarantee the nation a resource of technical experts in this critical field, and strengthen U.S. attribution capabilities.

The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) was established within the Department of Homeland Security in 2005. The Office's mission is currently to improve the Nation's capability to detect and report unauthorized attempts to import, possess, store, develop, or transport nuclear or radiological material for use against the United States.

 

Cost

There is no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate available for this legislation.