The U.S. Defense Department in August initiated a "strategic review and analysis" of its defense operations against biological and chemical weapons threats, Defense News quoted a high-level Pentagon official as saying on Thursday (see GSN, Sept. 29, 2010).
"We needed to relook the whole" of the department's activities on biological and chemical defense as the Pentagon looks for ways to manage hundreds of billions of dollars in spending reductions over the next 10 years. The final amount remains to be determined as Washington struggles with options for cutting the federal deficit.
While it is not yet known how the budget situation will affect biological and chemical defense operations, "there's a shared understanding that the (weapons of mass destruction) threat is very real, very serious and it is still a very high priority," the official said.
The source also highlighted the need for close cooperation with partner nations in countering potential strikes involving such weapons. Deals with Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom to collaborate in defeating "the unique threats that are coming our way" grow in importance as funding drops for defense operations, the official said.
"We recognize, more so than ever, it's our partnerships that's going to enable us to field the best capabilities for our forces, for our nations working together," the official noted.
The Defense Department is also conducting drills with South Korea aimed at "taking a look at the biodefense problem in that region," according to the official. The program involves a "whole of government approach" that encompasses the South Korean Defense Ministry, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and police and other agencies.
"We're helping our colleagues there go through some of the learning experiences we had in the United States in that interagency environment," the official said. "It's a new challenge for them, but the threat is ever more present on the peninsula today."
North Korea, longtime antagonist to both Seoul and Washington, is believed to operate an active biological weapons program that has produced thousands of tons of disease agents such as anthrax and smallpox (Marcus Weisberger, Defense News, Dec. 8).
The U.S. Defense Department in August initiated a "strategic review and analysis" of its defense operations against biological and chemical weapons threats, Defense News quoted a high-level Pentagon official as saying on Thursday.