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Pentagon to Augment Anti-WMD Capabilities

(Feb. 1) -A U.S. Army Technical Escort Unit member wears a hazardous-materials suit during a 2002 demonstration of the unit's chemical and biological incident response capabilities. The Pentagon indicated in a report today that it would pursue additional anti-WMD activities (Paul Richards/Getty Images). (Feb. 1) -A U.S. Army Technical Escort Unit member wears a hazardous-materials suit during a 2002 demonstration of the unit's chemical and biological incident response capabilities. The Pentagon indicated in a report today that it would pursue additional anti-WMD activities (Paul Richards/Getty Images).

The U.S. Defense Department said today in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review that it intends to enhance its capabilities to prevent the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction (see GSN, Feb. 6, 2006).

"The proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological capabilities among state and nonstate actors can threaten our ability to defend U.S. and allied interests, promote peace and security, ensure regional stability and protect our citizens," states the report, which addresses Pentagon priorities and planning over the next four years. "Further, the use of a nuclear weapon or a biological attack would have global ramifications. Preventing the proliferation and use of such weapons is therefore a top national priority."

Means of addressing those dangers include securing or eliminating potential weapons materials, tight scrutiny of potentially deadly agents and delivery systems, and countermeasures against an attack, according to the report.

"The department will expand capabilities to counter WMD threats, strengthen interdiction operations, refocus intelligence requirements, enhance and extend international partnerships to thwart proliferation, and support cooperative threat reduction efforts, such as the administration's new international initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide," it says.

Also on the agenda are creation of "countermeasures, defenses and mitigation strategies" intended to persuade enemies against using biological or chemical warfare materials.

"Further, the department must prepare to contain WMD threats emanating from fragile states and ungoverned spaces," the report states. "Success in this area will hinge on the ability to prevent and respond to global WMD crises, such as situations in which responsible state control of nuclear, chemical, or biological materials is not guaranteed. Faced with such emergencies, the department will require the ability to locate and secure WMD and WMD-related components, and well as interdict them on land, on sea or in the air."

Specific initiatives mandated by Defense Secretary Robert Gates are:

-- Opening of a "Joint Task Force Elimination Headquarters" that would be used to prepare and train for and conduct anti-WMD activities and provide enhance "nuclear disablement, exploitation, intelligence and coordination capabilities";

-- Augmenting resources for research and development of countermeasures against "nontraditional chemical agents" that might be used against military personnel from the United States or allied nations;

-- Improvements to U.S. capabilities in nuclear forensics, the scientific capability to identify the source of nuclear material that is seized in transit or used in an attack (see related GSN story, today). "Improving the ability to determine the source of material will strengthen deterrence. Additional resources will enhance DOD's air and ground sample collection mission and well as augmenting current laboratory assessment capabilities," the report says;

-- Safeguarding nuclear materials around the world by "working with interagency partners to identify countries that could benefit from site upgrades, security training facilities, and the disposition of weapons grade materials";

-- Broadening the scope of the biological threat reduction program to involve countries beyond the former Soviet Union in monitoring and responding to outbreaks of disease; and

-- Producing new technologies for monitoring compliance with global nonproliferation regimes (Global Security Newswire, Feb. 1).

The review also highlights a significant number of other issues, CNN reported. These include cybersecurity, terrorism, climate change, and preparedness for dealing with various, concurrent conflicts (Mike Mount, CNN, Feb. 1).

Threats such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction demand that the United States be ready to adapt at a rapid pace and cooperate to a greater degree with other nations and allies, Obama's top national security adviser said Friday (see GSN, Jan. 28).

"The forces of globalization shape a radically different security environment" than the dangers faced over the last 50 years, U.S. national security adviser Gen. James Jones told a security forum in Washington, Bloomberg reported.

"The ties and technologies of our interconnected world mean that threats are emerging and challenging our national security faster than ever before," he said. "We have to be just as fast in responding to those threats" (Viola Gienger, Bloomberg, Jan. 30).

NTI Analysis

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