According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her biggest nightmare is if al-Qaeda or regimes like Iran get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction and use it against us.  She is not alone. Military experts like the former head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, say that it would take, at most, only about 33 minutes for a missile fired anywhere in the world to hit our country, and life in America would change forever.

So what are we doing to prevent this nightmare?  Thankfully, the military is continuing to test missile defenses, even though the Obama administration cut back on some of the programs that would best protect us.  Locally, law enforcement agencies like the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department are taking on initiatives such as sending explosive experts to screen incoming ships and using helicopters to scan for weapons of mass destruction materials.

Cargo screening is helpful, but not enough. As Heritage Foundation analysts Jena Baker McNeil and Jessica Zuckerman explain, the 100 percent cargo screening mandate from Congress should be scrapped.  It’s excessively costly, provides a false sense of security, and is harming America’s relationship with its international trading partners and allies.

Instead, the federal government should expand efforts like the Container Security Initiative and the Proliferation Security Initiative.  These programs that target high-risk cargo, encourage private sector involvement, and urge other nations to partner with us to prevent terrorists from smuggling chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons materials into the United States.

This strategy is urgent, as recent reports by the congressionally mandated Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism and the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack have made clear.

Effective homeland security initiatives, alongside a robust comprehensive missile defense program, are vital for our security, and needed soon if leaders like Secretary Clinton hope to get a good night’s sleep.