WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, today held a hearing on the Department of Defense’s (DoD) role in countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and defending the homeland against threats posed by near-peer competitors like China and Russia, as well as escalating threats posed by North Korea and Iran.

Chairman Ernst opened the hearing by highlighting the troubling “increase of the proliferation of WMDs by rogue states and terrorist organizations that pose a direct and growing threat to our national security.” The Chairman pointed to the chemical warfare threats posed by North Korea, ISIS, and Syria and the need for a global strategy to combat these growing threats. Additionally, Ernst touched on the importance of readiness for a potential WMD attack on the homeland, and asked for an update on DoD’s capability to respond to such an attack.

Watch Chairman Ernst’s opening statement here or by clicking on the image below.

Chairman Ernst began by asking Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Kenneth Rapuano which WMD threat concerned him most across all inner-agencies, to which he responded, “If we’re looking at the near term, clearly North Korea. North Korea is a primary concern and focus of the department”. Assistant Secretary Rapuano also touched on the DoD’s concerns regarding the evolving capabilities of Iran’s missile and weapons programs, and the rapid advancements in accessible biotechnology and biological agents that can present their own threats. The Chairman also followed up with both witnesses on the capabilities of terrorist groups, such as ISIS or al Qaeda’s ability to produce biological or chemical weapons.

Watch Chairman Ernst’s first round of questions here or by clicking on the image below.

Chairman Ernst then asked Assistant Secretary Rapuano to provide additional details on the DoD’s strategy for countering WMDs. Secretary Rapuano outlined the Department’s different “layers” of strategy used to deter and respond to attacks ranging from sanctions to military actions. The Assistant Secretary also provided additional details on the DoD’s course of action if there were an attack on the homeland, which includes National Guard and Title 10 military that are equipped to respond in the event of an attack.

Watch Chairman Ernst’s second round of questions here or by clicking on the image below.

In Chairman Ernst’s final round of questions, she discussed with Assistant Secretary Rapuano the DoD’s collaboration with other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and their efforts to protect livestock in the United States against diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease. The Assistant Secretary agreed that these are critical commodities to our economy and population’s needs; and assured the Chairman they are working in conjunction with USDA to combat these types of threats. 

Watch Chairman Ernst’s final round of questions here or by clicking on the image below.