US Unprepared For Growing
Worldwide Weapons Threat

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A high-level federal government commission has concluded that the United States is ill-prepared to combat the growing threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons proliferation, the Baltimore Sun reported Thursday.
Commission members were particularly alarmed by the continuing economic meltdown in Russia, said the newspaper, which obtained an early copy of the panel's report, due out next week. The panel is headed by former director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Deutch.
The report cites seven instances since 1992 in which weapons-usable fissile materials were stolen. Russia does not know how much material it has, and it is increasingly vulnerable because of power outages, unpaid guards and sporadic violence, the newspaper said.
``The No. 1 threat that needs attention is the continued disintegration of Russia as a civil society,'' one commission member told the Sun. This member ranked the Russian problem as high, if not higher, than the threat to the United States from ballistic missiles that was cited by a previous panel headed by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Other dangers noted were those resulting from China's export of missiles and dangerous technology; efforts by more than a dozen extremist groups to get nuclear, chemical or biological weapons; North Korea and other hostile states with the ability to manufacture such weapons; and instability in the Middle East, and South and East Asia.
The problem is made ever more complex by the growth of technology that can be used both commercially and in weapons, according to the commission.
But the federal government's ability to respond to this threat is hamstrung by a series of policy and bureaucratic obstacles, the panel says.
``The commission finds that the U.S. government is not effectively organized to combat proliferation,'' it says in a summary of the 140-plus page report.
The Sun reported that few government agencies escaped criticism from the commission, which found in general that the United States is plagued by inadequate technology to cope with the problem.
The panel urged the president to name a National Director for Combating Proliferation.
The 18-month-old panel was created by Congress to assess how the government is dealing with the proliferation threat and to make recommendations.