WHITEPAPERS: Army War College , ASM (American Society for Microbiology), CATO Institute, Center for a New American Security, Center for Biosecurity of UPMC, Center for Counterproliferation Research, Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, CRS (Report for Congress), GAO (General Accounting Office), Institute for National Strategic Studies, Institute for Science and Public Policy, Johns Hopkins University, National Academy Of Engineering, National Defence University, PERI (Public Entity Risk Institute), RIS (Research & Information System), Terrorism Intelligence Centre, The Federalist Society, UNESCO (United Nations), University of Laussane, and the WMD Center.
Date: October 2011
Source: WMD Center
Abstract: Although naturally occurring disease remains a serious threat, a thinking enemy armed with these same pathogens, or with multi–drug-resistant or synthetically engineered pathogens could produce catastrophic consequences.
These threats are not new. Naturally occurring diseases have devastated societies throughout history. Sophisticated biological weapons, however, did not become a threat until the early days of the Cold War, and a combination of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the threat of nuclear retaliation provided credible prevention and deterrence.
Unfortunately, the biotech revolution now affords non-state actors the capability to produce sophisticated biological weapons. Although traditional deterrence may not be effective against non-state actors, a strong bio-response
capability may provide a deterrent effect. Therefore, the primary means of defending the American homeland against bioterrorism is the capability to effectively respond after an attack has occurred.
The purpose of this report card is to provide a strategic, end-to-end assessment of America’s bio-response capabilities. It
is intended to complement other recent reports that have offered detailed assessments of various components of bioresponse, such as public health, medical countermeasures, and hospital preparedness. Our strategic overview of national bio-response capabilities is designed to provide broad context to policymakers and government leaders for setting priorities.
Many of the nation’s top biodefense, public health, and medical experts guided this project. A Board of Advisors informed project methodology, the seven categories of bio-response, the scale of potential bio-events, and the proposed metrics by which to assess capabilities in each category. A separate group of diverse subject-matter experts helped with subsequent research and early analysis. Other biodefense stakeholders— both inside and outside of government—provided numerous briefings and recommendations that also informed this report. The conclusions and content are the sole responsibility of its authors—the directors and officers of the WMD Center.
Findings are summarized in the chart on page 9. It includes letter grades in each bio-response category as assessed for
each level of biological event. Trend lines project likely future progress, or lack
thereof, assuming baseline funding.
No one in the fields of biodefense, public health, or medicine will be surprised by the report’s finding that the United States
is unprepared to respond to a global outbreak of a deadly virus for which we have no medical countermeasures. Likewise, by definition, a response to bioweapons that have been made resistant to our current medical countermeasures would fail to meet fundamental expectations. If Congress and the Administration focused primarily on addressing these most extreme, less common scenarios, it could easily expend most available biodefense resources, without a measurable return on investment.
The WMD Center recommends that future preparedness programs focus on the center two columns in the chart—largescale events. It is possible to improve these grades in the relative near-term, and doing so would significantly improve readiness for small-scale events as well.
This report suggests that moving from Orange to Yellow (Ds to Cs) will provide the best return on investment. To do so,
the nation should focus its efforts on three strategic priorities:
2. Mobilizing “whole of nation” response planning, and
3. Sustained investment in purposedriven science.
Throughout the past year, the leadership of the WMD Center has met with many senior-level officials throughout government and the bio-response enterprise. They are incredibly hard working and dedicated and they represent the very
best America has to offer in the fields of biodefense, public health, medicine, and the biological sciences. Although their efforts have yielded considerable progress over the past decade, the nation does not yet have adequate bio-response capability to meet fundamental expectations during a large-scale biological event.
The nation’s leaders need to ensure that those responsible for defending America against bioterrorism are provided the
resources, organizational framework, policies, and leadership to meet this growing national security challenge.
History of the WMD Commission
A legacy of the 9/11 Commission, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (the WMD Commission) was chartered by the U.S. Congress in 2007 to assess the nation’s efforts to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction. To fulfill its mandate, the WMD Commission released World at Risk in December 2008. The report provided a roadmap with specific recommendations to address WMD threats.
Among its Findings:
2. Terrorists are more likely to use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon, and the U.S. government needs to move more aggressively reduce the prospect of a bioterror attack (WMD Center, 2011).