[Table of Contents] [ Chapter 10]
The United States military is entering one of those rare historical periods when revolutions happen in how wars are fought. The revolution derives not from any single invention or idea, but from a range of rapidly developing technologies.1 Some ten military revolutions have occurred since the fourteenth century.2
Advances in sensors, communications, stealth technology, and precision munitions have preoccupied those leaders planning how the United States will wage future wars. The revolution in biotechnology, however, has gone relatively unnoticed. The same technology and expertise which has brought revolutionary medical therapies and greater agricultural productivity is readily transferable to the development of biological weapons.
Many technical barriers that once limited the effective use of biological warfare (BW) are gone. A country or group with modest pharmaceutical expertise can develop BW for terrorist or military use. As the United States prepares itself for the national security challenges of the twenty-first century, it must grasp the implications of this silent revolution.
Nature has long waged its own form of biological warfare. The epidemic of bubonic plague killed an estimated one quarter of Europes medieval population (25 million deaths) between 1347 and 1351. The introduction of smallpox into the New World by European explorers decimated the population of Native Americans.3 A pandemic of Spanish flu may have killed 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1919.4 By the year 2000, 40 million people could be infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which causes the Acquired Immunodeficiency Disease Syndrome (AIDS).5
Such events as these undeniably change biologic, economic, and political systems. Governments, groups, and individuals who desire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) can use biotechnology to achieve this goal. Skeptics mistakenly dismiss the military or strategic value of biological weapons. These weapons represent a credible threat to United States security and future economic prosperity.
Biological warfare offers an adversary unique and significant advantages because of its ease of production, potential impact of use, and the ability to exploit US vulnerabilities. It is the only weapon of mass destruction which has utility across the spectrum of conflict. Using biological weapons under the cover of an endemic or natural disease occurrence provides an attacker the potential for plausible denial. In this context, biological weapons offers greater possibilities for use than do nuclear weapons.
Biological warfare can include the use of bacteria, rickettsia, viruses, and toxins to induce illness or death in humans, animals, and plants. In the current public opinion, there is a significant misperception that clouds BW discussions. Biological warfare is often lumped together with chemical weapons. In BW, the types of agents, physiologic effects, methods of protection and detection, and methods of application are distinctly different from those of chemical warfare (CW).
Of the four general types of biological warfare agents mentioned, 60 have been identified with potential weapon utility against humans.7 The medical effects of biological agents are diverse and are not necessarily related to the type of agent. Some cause pneumonia. Others can cause encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. Each one causes a different complex of symptoms, which can either incapacitate or kill its victim.
The ineffective dose required to induce illness or death may be as great as tens of thousand of organisms as in the case of anthrax, or just a few as with tularemia. With the exception of exposure to a toxin, a period of several days or even weeks may pass before the onset of symptoms and the ultimate effect. This incubation period is the time necessary for the microbe or viral agent to establish itself in the host and replicate.
Toxins, on the otherhand, are a product of living organisms and behave similar to chemical agents. Botulinum toxin is the most toxic substance known to man. Without supportive care, inhalation of nanograms (10-9 milligrams) of this agent will cause progressive muscular paralysis leading to asphyxiation and death.
In contrast, the hazard posed by biological agents is primarily an inhalational one. The most effective means of delivering a BW agent is via an aerosol in the one to five micron particle size. Creation of this type of an invisible aerosol cloud may be efficiently accomplished using an agricultural sprayer for example.
The current US military protective mask, when properly fitted and donned, affords virtually 100 percent protection. Biological agents generally do not pose a cutaneous hazard. A MOPP suit is not required. When US troops deployed to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, they did not have an operational capability to detect any biological agents.8
During Desert Storm, the United States fielded only a rudimentary developmental detector system. This system could detect only two of several possible Iraqi BW threats. In addition to the limited scope of this detector, it took between 13 and 24 hours after the attack to determine the presence and identify the BW agent. There was no capability to provide any real-time or advanced warning of a biological attack.9 During the Gulf War, the first likely indication of an attack was ill and dying soldiers.
Detection of biological agents is a complex problem. Since World War II, attempts by the United States to develop BW detection have met with frustration and only limited success. Given the chemically indistinguishable organic properties of biological agents, the methodology for detecting chemical agents is not useful by itself. Each prospective BW agent requires a specific assay to detect and identify. Advances in medical diagnostics and biotechnology are allowing science to overcome these technical obstacles. The number of potential agents, however, and the demanding technical and developmental requirements make the challenge of BW detection daunting.
In lieu of detection or advanced warning and the opportunity to don protective masks, medical products such as vaccines, immunoglobulins and antibiotics can mitigate the effect of biological agents and the potential operational impact. All three types of products can provide both preexposure and postexposure protection to an infectious disease and therefore a BW agent.
Vaccines are active immunization measures whereby the host is intentionally exposed to either an attenuated or inactivated form of the disease causing agent. Vaccines prompt the body to produce antibodies which can afford a high level of protection for many years. The current Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccine against anthrax has been shown to be protective against inhalational agents in nonhuman primates.10
Like biological weapon detectors, vaccines are highly specific for a potential threat agent. In addition, the time needed to develop a safe vaccine product suitable for human use may be 10 to 15 years. While several BW vaccines exist for known threat agents such as botulinum toxin and tularemia, they remain in a status short of full FDA approval known as an investigational new drug (IND).
Full FDA approval may be slow in coming if there is not sufficient test data on human response to the vaccines or if there is a lack of commercial demand or no perceived near-term public requirement for its use. Vaccines against exotic infectious disease agents associated with offensive BW fall under the purview of the Department of Defense with the Army as research and development executive agency.
The ability to provide IND products, which are shown to be safe in humans and efficacious in animal studies, short of war or national crisis is limited by the need to satisfy the human use or informed consent requirements. These requirements specify the need to inform the prospective recipient of possible known and theoretical, short-term and long-term effects of the product. The stigma attached with IND status may have limited the use of the vaccine during Desert Storm. The controversy surrounding Persian Gulf Illnes (PGI) further negatively effects perceptions of IND products used for military purposes. To date the biological warfare vaccines have not been associated with PI.
Once a vaccine is given, there is lag time before adequate protective antibodies develop. The length of time and the number of doses of vaccine required before protection is attained and its duration, are unique characteristics of the specific product. Furthermore, a sufficiently high dose of a BW or infectious disease agent can overwhelm any vaccine. Finally, the protective level obtained for a population is not uniform. There is individual variability.
Immunoglobulins are existing antibodies which can be harvested from humans or animals. Like vaccines, they are protective for a specific agent. Unlike vaccines, which stimulate active production of antibodies by the host, immunoglobulins are considered passive immunization. When injected into a host, they provide short-term protection which usually lasts weeks or months. Immunoglobulins are usually used to protect viral and toxin agents. The rigorous FDA approval required for vaccines is also required for immunoglobulins.
A well-known example of an immunoglobulin preparation is the serum used for Hepatitis A. Immunoglobulins currently exist for pre-exposure and post-exposure treatment of botulinum toxin intoxication. Developments in monoclonal antibody technologies offer the potential for rapid development of immunoglobulin preparations for use in BW medical defense.11
Finally, the use of antibiotics for pre-exposure or post- exposure treatment of bacterial or rickettsial BW agents offers the potential for broad spectrum-agent protection. Antibiotics however do not prevent or treat illness due to viral or toxin agents. There are further practical theoretic limitations to the use of antibiotic. Certain microbial infectious diseases and BW agents have a natural resistance to different antibiotics. Furthermore, antibiotic resistance among microbes occurs naturally or can be developed deliberately. Deliberate resistance can be induced by exposing cultures to serial exposures of ever-increasing doses of an antibiotic or by transferring a piece of genetic material which confers antibiotic resistance.12 It is possible to purposefully develop a BW agent that is resistant to a range of different antibiotics.
The duration of protection afforded by antibiotics depends on the amount of antibiotic available and the compliance of the individual to take them. For certain bacterial BW exposures, antibiotics may have to be taken for more than 30 days to prevent illness and possible death.13 A large enough infective dose of a bacterial or rickettsial agent could, as in the case of the vaccine, overwhelm the protection afforded by antibiotics.
The medical means to mitigate the effects of BW agents and attack are imperfect. Even with reliable detectors which provide real time or advanced warning, vaccines, immuno-globulins, and antibiotics play a complementary role in the passive defense against BW. In the absence of BW detection, medical products represent the cornerstone of protecting US forces from the effects of BW. Besides their medical benefit, their administration may deter an enemy from using BW.
The need for a prior knowledge of BW agent threats for both detectors and medical products has already been suggested. A great deal is known about US offensive BW agents developed and produced until 1969 (Table 2).
US OFFENSIVE BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS AGENTS PRODUCED
Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (VEE)
There are some classical BW agents which Japan, the United States, and possibly the former Soviet Union and Iraq have researched and developed as weapons.14 Anthrax and botulinum toxin fall into this category. Among the 60 other potential BW agents, sound and complete intelligence data will play a vital role in ascertaining which ones proliferants will pursue.15 Robert Gates, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), underscored the problem in January 1992, when he cited human intelligence as being critical in assessing the proliferation of both chemical and biological weapons in the third world.16
Congress has not missed the importance of intelligence in focusing R&D. Congressional law mandates that BW defensive medical efforts be funded and prioritized based on a threat list developed by the US intelligence community.17
Two questions emerge from this process. The first is whether adequate priority and resources have been focused on collecting and analyzing BW-related intelligence and how successful these efforts have been. The second is whether the process of creating a threat list based entirely on intelligence assessments is adequate. Assessing an adversarys current BW efforts may ignore developments in biotechnology which may offer breakthrough capabilities and novel agents.
The final distinction between chemical and biological weapons involves the methods of dissemination. Weaponizing of CW and BW implies three essential elements: agent, munition, and delivery system. Both can be weaponized into conventional munitions such as artillery rounds, cluster bombs, and missile warheads.
Unlike CW, BW weaponizing implies the efficient aerosolization of viable agents in a one-to-five micron particle size. Dissemination of BW agents by conventional munitions pose certain technological difficulties, because they are sensitive to environmental stresses. Excessive heat, ultraviolet light, humidity and oxidation decrease their potency and persistence.18 The United States overcame these difficulties in the late 1960s to produce, weaponize, and stockpile several BW agents.19
Weaponizing BW includes some unconventional delivery systems which may put the United States at risk.20 In contrast to chemical agents, biological agents could also be easily adapted for use with commercially available agricultural sprayers. This dissemination method lends itself to both covert and clandestine applications and possible terrorist use.21 Unmanned remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) with spray tanks represent another low-observable means of BW delivery.22
A common characteristic shared by both chemical and biological agents is their dissemination on ancient meteorological conditions. The prediction and control of the environmental dispersion of BW agents represents the greatest uncertainty about their use. Ideal conditions would occur at night, with favorable mild to moderate winds. The relative coverage of 1,000 kilograms of nerve agent Sarin is 7.8 square kilometers under these meteorological conditions. Attacking a major metropolitan city like Washington, D.C., would result in an estimated 3,000 to 8,000 deaths. A similar attack using 100 kilograms of anthrax under the same conditions would cover 300 square kilometers and result in 1 to 3 million deaths.23 Anthrax, under favorable meteorological conditions, could kill as many people as a comparably sized nuclear device.24
A recently published Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) document, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks,25 had three major findings.
The proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and ballistic missiles creates a pall over the potential achievement of a stable global environment. It also raises the risks of escalation of regional conflicts. Proliferants understand the value of these weapons for deterrence, coercion, and war fighting.
The consequences of their use have unfortunately been recorded in recent history. The horrific images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki leave little to imagination regarding the death and destruction that occur with a nuclear detonation. Similarly, the television images of dead Kurdish villagers and incapacitated Iranian soldiers during the Iran-Iraq War reveal the grisly and inhuman effects of chemical weaponry. The psychological impact of Irans Scud missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia was enormous.
Nowhere in recent history, however, has the use of BW been similarly documented. The suspicion that Yellow Rain or the mycotoxin tricothecene was used in Indochina has never been conclusively proven, to the embarrassment of the Reagan administration. Similar suspicions have proven inconclusive during the Soviet Unions occupation of Afghanistan. The former Soviet Union has only recently admitted the truth about an accident at a biological agent production facility in Sverdlovosk in 1979. Boris Yeltsin, himself, recently disclosed Russias violation of the Biological Weapons Convention in 1992.
During the 19901991 Gulf War, Iraq was suspected of having an extensive BW capability, but subsequent UN inspections failed to find any definitive proof. However, under the pressure of economic sanctions, Iraq admitted that it had a biological warfare R&D effort. For example, Iraqi officials have now disclosed that between 1985 and 1991 Iraq produced two germ warfare agents, baccilus anthracix and botulinum toxin.26
In some measure, BW has attained the stature of the bogey man of WMDterribly feared but never seen. That fear and the threat, however, are real. According to the commander of the US Army Chemical and Biological Defense Agency (CBDA), the biological threat has been recently singled out as the one major threat that still inflicts catastrophic effects on a theater-deployed force.
Desert Storm solidified the perception in the United States, in the Congress, and among our military leadership that biological weapons were something that third world nations considered a potential equalizer.27 Had Iraq used anthrax or botulinum toxin, enormous casualties would have resulted which would have overtaxed the Armys theater medical system.28
Certain findings of the OTA assessment relating to BW are noteworthy. The ease and cost of developing and producing BW is much simpler and cheaper than developing nuclear weapons. Biotechnology allows small facilities to be capable of producing large amounts of biological agents. Ten million dollars allows a proliferant to produce a large arsenal.29 The scientific and technological knowledge needed to develop and produce offensive agents in significant quantities is readily available and relatively unsophisticated. The equipment required is widely available and is dual-use, having legitimate commercial applications. Finally, and probably most importantly, the use of BW could be difficult to prove in some cases since outbreaks of endemic or naturally occurring disease happen.30
Eight nations have been implicated in developing offensive BW capabilities: Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, China, Libya, Syria, and Taiwan.31 A ninth, Russia, admitted to developing an offensive program in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, although it has reportedly ended such activities. The aforementioned list may not be all inclusive. Given the ability to produce militarily significant quantities of BW agents (kilograms) in small legitimate facilities, a committed proliferant with a modestly sophisticated pharmaceutical industry could develop a credible undetected clandestine offensive BW capability.32
Genetic engineering is not expected immediately to herald the development of new or exotic BW agents. Instead, its impact may enhance the environmental stability of existing BW agents. It has also been speculated that cloning DNA segments from toxin-producing organisms may allow for the mass production of these agents. Production of protein molecules such as human insulin has been demonstrated and is commercially available technology.
The fall of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the superpower rivalry and created an opportunity to establish an international system that seeks to ensure political stability, economic opportunity, and collective methods of conflict resolution. The United States has prioritized its national security objectives to enhance economic growth and development; to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; and to resolve regional conflicts.
Nevertheless, among aggressive third world states, WMD proliferation is occurring, and there are strong incentives to pursue BW versus nuclear or chemical weapons. Proliferants obtain significant capabilities with minimum economic costs and political risks. The 1991 Gulf War highlights this point.
The United States and United Nations claimed after the war that Iraq had an advanced BW program, although public proof was lacking and Iraq initially denied this. During the war, Iraq capitalized on the coalition bombing of a baby milk facility for propaganda purposes. Despite US official claims that the Abu Gharyb infant formula plant was a dual-use facility capable of producing biological weapons, CNNs Peter Arnetts visit to the site and report raised public doubts about whether this was a legitimate allied target, when, in fact, it was. Following the war, intrusive on-site visits by UN inspectors failed to uncover any irrefutable evidence of an offensive BW program, although the Iraqis later admitted they had procured large quantities of a biological agentsanthrax and botulism toxin.
The Iraqi experience shows that biological warfare programs can exist and be hidden within legitimate facilities. Even with direct on-site visits the likelihood of discovery may be small unless the visitors know precisely where to go and are permitted entry. The existence of such programs can be enhanced with tight security and deception.
Recent events in the former Soviet Union concerning possible proliferation of nuclear materials also add greater uncertainty to the BW proliferation calculus. The potential impact and availability of scientists and technicians associated with the former Soviet offensive BW program should be considered. Aspiring proliferants may see them as lucrative recruiting targets. Unlike the complex technological requirements for nuclear weapons, one or two individuals with experience in BW agent production and weaponization could provide breakthrough assistance to a fledgling program.
The challenge for the United States is to develop a coherent and coordinated strategy to limit BW proliferation. If this fails, the United States must be prepared to deter, preempt, and defend against it. On the basis of the several incentives presented earlier, the likelihood of preventing further proliferation or rolling back existing BW-capable nations seems unlikely. The simple arithmetic of the number of countries suspected of offensive BW activities is at nine and likely to increase by the end of the century.
How do we meet the BW threat in the twenty-first century? What policies will help solve the likely BW challenges? How should the United States counter-BW programs be prioritized and integrated?
Incomplete or absent intelligence about a suspected proliferants BW program is a likely source of trouble. Not having specific information about the status of a BW program, or locations of production and storage, or methods of delivery, or the specific agents could result in an incomplete assessment. This could directly impact the development of United States strategy, policy, and capabilities to meet the threat.
A comprehensive anti-BW intelligence effort must collect information relating to the basic science, medical, and bioengineering capabilities of a potential proliferator. Short of having reliable human intelligence with direct access to an adversarys BW program, this type of information is required to assess the biological capability of that nation.
Intelligence collection and analysis are critical for future United States BW counter-proliferation efforts. Determining the intent to develop BW, locating suspect facilities, and assessing the nature of the offensive program are essential elements of the intelligence effort. The importance of specific BW agent intelligence for medical and detection capabilities deserves emphasis. Even if the intelligence community collects and validates this information, there may be a significant lag time, years or even decades, before safe, effective counter-measures can be developed and fielded.
Intelligence about the anticipated means of delivery and its doctrine of use is also important. This information allows development of US active defense capabilities to interdict and destroy delivery vehicles. Facility-related intelligence also allows for identification and targeting of production and related facilities for counteroffensive strikes.
The ability to identify BW-related organizations and proliferants is important to optimize the utility of export controls and the ability to interdict shipments of related equipment destined for suspected BW countries or organizations. The ability to focus limited diplomatic and economic resources to dissuade, pursue arms control, and bring international pressure on suspected proliferants is, therefore, also intelligence-dependent.
The likelihood that national technical means can identify any or all of the three key BW intelligence components intent, location, and natureis small. Dual-use facilities may not emit characteristic signatures, but still be capable of producing military significant quantities of biological agents. As alluded to earlier, the availability of human-source intelligence will be a critical element in providing information related to BW proliferation. Assessment of BW-related information requires trained personnel experienced in matters relating to biology, biotechnology, medicine, and agriculture. Balancing the technical component of the intelligence analysis process is the need to integrate the expertise and experience the intelligence system.
Because of the greater relative intelligence challenges and the myriad of related areas associated with BW versus nuclear proliferation, adequate resources must be applied to the problem. Increasing collection priorities should also necessitate a concomitant increase in the analysis resources devoted to the problem. There should be an assessment and if necessary a redistribution of assets to reconcile the disparity between the effort against nuclear proliferation and that of BW.
Policy and Strategy Development
Beyond the collection and assessment of intelligence, policy development and integration of the many functions are required to respond to BW proliferation. The domestic vulnerability to covert or clandestine acts of BW terror should be assessed. There must be executive-level interest and involvement to oversee the development of a crisis response system to domestic BW incidents. While the federal response to terrorist acts is well delineated, the time-sensitive health care demands created by an act of biological terror must be assessed. It is beyond the scope of the single agency identified in the Federal Emergency Response Plan, the Department of Health and Human Services, to mount the necessary reaction to deal with the health consequences and prevent unnecessary loss of life.
A historical example illustrates the scale of the effort required to respond to an act of BW terror in a major metropolitan area. In 1947, an American business man traveled to New York City from Mexico City. During his bus ride, he developed a fever, headache, and rash. Though ill upon his arrival in New York, he went sight-seeing. Over a period of several hours, he walked around the city and through a major department store. His illness, smallpox, progressed and he died nine days later. As a result of this single case, 12 other cases of smallpox and two deaths occurred. Because of smallpoxs ability to be transmitted from person to person, this handful of cases was deemed so serious by public health officials that 6,350,000 persons in New York City alone were vaccinated in less than a month.33
Unlike 1947, Americans have not been routinely vaccinated against smallpox since 1980. A significant proportion of the US population is susceptible to this virus. The number of cases expected to occur as the result of a deliberate act could be in the thousands or tens of thousands. Even though the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated, North Korea has been identified as one possible country retaining cultures of this virus to use as a biological weapon.34
Even if a noncontagious agent were used, the public health consequences could be overwhelming. If several kilograms of an agent like anthrax were disseminated in New York City today, conservative estimates put the number deaths occurring in the first few days at 400,000.35 Thousands of others would be at risk of dying within several days if proper antibiotics and vaccination were not started immediately. Millions of others would be fearful of being exposed and seek or demand medical care as well. Beyond the immediate health implications of such an act, the potential panic and civil unrest created would require an equally large response. Local law enforcement agencies would be overwhelmed and would need the assistance of state and federal agencies. The complete vulnerability of the United States if exposed to this type of terrorism would prompt other terrorists to attempt the same type of attack for extortion or additional terror impact.
Prior to a domestic incident such as this, a capable, practiced, and coordinated response mechanism must be in place. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides this coordination function, but its actual familiarity and practice associated with biological terrorism is not known. The health-related support functions found in the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Defense would have to be integrated into a single response plan.
Stockpiles of necessary antibiotics, immunoglobulins, and vaccines would have to be procured, maintained, and be readily available to administer within hours after recognizing an incident. An additional critical element of this response would be the management of information to allay fears and avoid unnecessary panic. The effort required to respond to a biological act of terror rivals that needed for an accidental or deliberate detonation of a nuclear device.
The BWC clearly represents the lock which keeps the honest man honest. It serves a vital function by establishing an international norm against BW proliferation. Efforts should be made to provide both disincentives and incentives for current states to comply with the BW treaty. Nonsignatories should be leveraged to participate in the convention. Strengthening the BWC by enhancing transparency of biological activities is stated US government policy. Measures identified in the third review conference are being examined for use in a possible formal protocol. Like the warning to consumerscaveat emptor, subscribers to the convention must understand that complete verification is not just elusive but impossible.
During the original proposal of the BWC by the United Kingdom, the Soviet military strongly opposed any limitation on offensive BW. The Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko felt that, for propaganda purposes, a prohibition on biological weapons would be useful. Without international controls, the Politburo and the Soviet military both endorsed the toothless convention in 1972.36 The Soviet Union was one of the three depositories of this treaty. Recent disclosures by President Boris Yeltsin regarding former Soviet and Russian violations of the Biological Weapons Convention highlight the limits of that treaty.
The opportunity to strengthen the regime must also be tempered by events in Iraq since the Gulf War. Despite intrusive inspections, no concrete evidence of its offensive BW program has been uncovered, although Iraq has admitted to an R&D effort prior to the war. The continuation of the US sanctions is now solely dependent on Iraqs refusal to detail their BW program. Public statements by senior US intelligence and government officials indicates that Iraq retains its offensive BW capability. Indeed, there is a strong suspicion that Iraq may not have destroyed its BW agents as it has claimed.
A disturbing prospect for strengthening the BWC is that the 21 measures identified in the third review conference were utilized in Iraq including such actions as monitoring, sample collections, short-notice visits, record reviews, and interviewing of key personnel. These measures have yielded no conclusive evidence to date about the present Iraqi BW capability or its past program.
Diplomatic Measures and International Pressure
Current DOD counterproliferation policy emphasizes use of public diplomacy, positive and negative security assistance, and identifying the economic, political and military costs of proliferation. Denial of certain equipment or technologies used in BW is problematic. Export controls, interdiction, or disruption of supply networks will have limited impact given the dual-use legitimate nature of the biological materials and equipment.
Diplomatic efforts to prevent or control BW proliferation will have similar limits. States that are parties to the BWC, but are committed eventually to developing secret offensive biological weapons capabilities, can do serious BW research and development legally for a time within the current treaty framework. Nations who are not signatories can refuse entry and pursue offensive programs as well. Given the low likelihood of detecting violations, nonsignatories could take advantage of economic incentives or foreign assistance programs for joining the BWC, yet pursue clandestine offensive BW programs. There are reasonable indications that diplomacy alone can do little to prevent BW proliferation.
Nevertheless, diplomatic and economic pressure can serve a useful purpose in inhibiting a proliferants activities by invoking sanctions, export controls, or publicly disclosing violations. One must realize that invoking these measures depends on timely and accurate intelligence. Diplomatic measures which try to control proliferation may, in the short run, delay a proliferants efforts. In the long term, they may motivate determined proliferants to conceal or deceive their true intent and activities. Of course the perfect solution to proliferation is correcting the underlying reasons why nations choose to develop biological or nuclear weapons. Clearly, BW is a symptom of a deeper security need.
Once proliferation occurs and an adversary attains an offensive BW capability, the focus changes to mitigating its perceived advantage and deterring its use. The range of counteroffensive capabilities and strategies must include deterrence, preemption, and destruction. During Desert Storm speculation occurred regarding the implicit use of nuclear weapons in response to BW attack. Both President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney publicly stated that any attack on US forces with chemical or biological weapons would be met with massive retaliation. The accuracy and credibility of this policy option are subject to much debate.
Determining the culpable party after a covert or clandestine BW attack has occurred may be impossible. The circumstances following the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 highlight the potential difficulties of a forensic investigation following an act of terror. Before implicating Libyan intelligence operatives, both Iran and Syria and several terrorist groups were suspected. Finding a smoking gun and proving who is responsible for a future covert biological warfare attack could be difficult or impossible.
There will be times in the future when the US president may have to consider military preemptive strikes against a terrorist state or group to protect the United States and allied governments against BW attacks. Preemptive activities or anticipatory self-defense can range from efforts that occur during nonhostilities to open armed conflict. The recent interception and attempted interdiction of precursor CW materials bound for Iran from China (Yin He incident) present a recent example. The 1981 bombing of the Iraqi Orisak nuclear reactor by Israel is representative of using overt military force during instances short of open armed conflict. On the other hand, the US air campaign sought to destroy Saddam Husseins WMD capabilities in the opening days of the Gulf War.
Destruction of the means to produce, process and deliver biological weapons is the final element of the counteroffensive strategy. There is a potential risk of collateral damage when striking BW-related facilities or delivery systems. Theoretically, a downwind hazard could occur if bulk storage of BW agents were struck when meteorological conditions were favorable to their dissemination. While no specific confirmed reports of collateral damage were documented during Desert Storm, there was one news report that implicated the occurrence of illness and death in Iraqi guards at an unidentified BW facility south of Baghdad after coalition bombing.37
Another partial answer to the BW threat would be to deploy theater ballistic missile defenses capable of intercepting enemy BW warheads while enroute to their targets. Ideally, interception and destruction would occur during early boost phase of the enemy missile launch to lower the risk of friendly casualties. Good ballistic missile defenses are not enough, since the United States and its allies must also respond to the challenge posed by future enemy cruise missiles equipped with biological weapon warheads. Of course, such missile defenses are defenses of the last resort. The greatest probability of minimizing collateral damage would be realized if special forces or other means of preemption allowed the United States or its allies to destroy the enemy BW capability prior to an adversary filling the weapon or launching the attack.
The last element of the BW counterproliferation strategy is medical and nonmedical passive defensive measures. The importance and problems of BW detectors have already been identified. A priority effort exists to develop and field a BW detector which can provide stand-off warning and real-time detection of attack.
Another nonmedical defensive measure that deserves emphasis is the employment of collective protective systems. Hardened shelters and work areas for rear-echelon troops as well as filtered over-pressurized systems for combat vehicles, ships, and planes could minimize the effects of both chemical and biological weapons.
Medical measures to protect against biological threats include short-term and long-term methods of protecting US military forces. Even when detectors become available, medical measures will play an important role in both protection and treatment against BW attack.
Efforts should be focused first on developing, testing, and producing Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines to immunize soldiers against the most likely BW threat agents. The availability of suitable vaccines and other medical products must remain a priority.
On 26 November 1993, Undersecretary of Defense William Perry signed the DOD immunization policy for BW threats. It establishes the requirement for both peacetime and contingency use of vaccines against validated BW threats. Each theater commander-in-chief (CINC) is required to determine the regional threat and provide the chairman of the Joint Chiefs with requirements. Integral in meeting the regional CINCs requirements is the development of a DOD-dedicated vaccine production infrastructure.
The liability concerns of the US pharmaceutical industry have affected development and production of public health vaccines. The controversy associated with the liability risk of immunizing children against Pertussis is illustrative. Congress mandated a government-subsidized fund to defray court awarded damages resulting from severe neurologic sequelae from the Pertussis vaccine. The rationale behind this effort was to protect the vaccine companies from large cash awards resulting from litigation, so to preserve their profitable production of important public health vaccines.
The commercial or public need for vaccines against biological warfare agents short of an act of terror is virtually zero. Yet, should a high-confidence warning of an attack on our population occur, substantial amounts of these products would be necessary to respond to minimize illness and death. The peacetime military need exists as result of the DOD immunization directive.
The ability and desire of the pharmaceutical industry to commit its facilities for dedicated vaccine development are questionable in light of profit and liability concerns. A US government vaccine facility has value for both BW and public health considerations. Such a facility should remain a high priority project in developing capability to respond to BW proliferation.
Besides the actual protective effect gained by BW vaccines, certain elements of deterrence can be garnered by minimizing the effect of an adversarys BW agent. Immunizing US forces and having the ability to protect others will minimize an enemys ability to coerce the United States and its allies. They will also lessen the potential impact of a BW attack on the United States or its allies.
Therefore, the perceived or actual benefit derived by the BW proliferant will be lessened. Finally, vaccines and medical countermeasures can contribute the means to maintain the war-fighting capability of US military forces as well as providing for the survival of US citizens.
The proliferation of biological warfare weapons offers less developed nations a capability as lethal and potentially devastating as a nuclear device. The ease and relative low cost of BW production, coupled with spread of dual-use legitimate biotechnology, will facilitate and accelerate BW proliferation in the short-term and well into the twenty-first century.
Biological weapons can be employed in noncombat settings under the guise of natural events, during operations other than war, or can be used in open combat scenarios against all biological systemsman, animal, or plant. Deliberate dissemination of BW agents may be afforded possible denial by naturally occurring diseases and events. The low probability of detecting the development and production of terrorist and militarily significant quantities of BW agents lessens the effectiveness of diplomatic measures such as dissuasion, denial, and international pressure.
The limitations associated with treaty verification leave little optimism for the long-term effectiveness of the Biological Weapons Convention. Ascribing to the BWC may offer further potential of plausible denial if proliferants sought to use membership as a cover for their prohibited efforts.
Expectations for preventing BW proliferation must be grounded in reality. The likelihood of preventing or deterring a determined proliferant from obtaining biological weapons is relatively small. The outlook for the future of biological weapons proliferation is discouraging. Brain drain from the former Soviet Union may create volatile opportunities for breakthrough proliferants.
Future US policies against BW proliferation need to be based on integrated government policies and capabilities to deter, preempt and defend against this threat. No single element of the program is adequate to deal with the BW problem. Together, however, these elements can lower the risk and mitigate the potential impact of BW.
In addition, the problem of biological warfare cannot be narrowly focused on its ability to kill or render people ill. Biological warfares potential to create significant economic loss and subsequent political instability with plausible denial exceeds any other known weapon. Germ warfare at the end of the twentieth and inception of the twenty-first century directly threatens the security of the United States and the achievement of a peaceful, prosperous, and stable post-cold war era.
1. Bradley Graham, Battle Plans for a New Century, The Washington Post, 21 February 1995, A1.
2. Ibid., A4. See also, Andrew F. Krepinevich, Cavalry to Computer, The Pattern of Military Revolutions, The National Interest, No. 37, Fall 1994, 3042. These 10 revolutions in military affairs were identified as the infantry revolution, the artillery revolution, revolution of sail and shot, the fortress revolution, the Napoleonic revolution, land war revolution, naval revolution, mechanization revolution, aviation revolution, information revolution, and the nuclear revolution.
3. William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York: Anchor Books, 1977).
4. Joseph D. Douglas and Neil C. Livingstone, America the Vulnerable (Lexington Mass. Lexington Books, 1987) ,2.
5. World AIDS Day December 1 1993 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control, 19 November 1993), 1.
6. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1993), 3.
7. Stanley L. Weiner and John Barret, Trauma Management for Civilian and Military Physicians (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1986), 519.
8. General Accounting Office, Chemical & Biological Defense: U.S. Forces Are Not Adequately Equipped to Detect All Threats (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1993) 1.
9. Ibid., 3.
10. Arthur Friedlander, et al., Post-exposure Prophylaxis against Experimental Inhalational Anthrax (Frederick, M.D.: Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, 1990).
11. Jonathan Lasch, Human Monoclonal Antibodies for Biological Warfare Defense, (La Jolla California: The Scripps Research Institute, 19 November 1993), 1.
12. George F. Brooks, et. al., Medical Microbiology, (Norwalk, N.C.: Appleton and Lange, 1991), 162163.
14. Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman, A Higher Form of Killing (New York: Noonday Press, 1982), 76. Also Defense Intelligence Agency, Soviet Biological Warfare Threat (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1986), 2. Another good source is Michael R. Gordon, CIA Foresees Iraq Biological-Weapon Capability in Early `91, New York Times, 20 September 1990, 1.
15. David L. Huxsoll, The U.S. Biological Defense Research Program, in Biological Weapons: Weapons of the Future? ed. Brad Roberts (Washington, D.C.: The Center for Strategic & International Studies, 1993), 60.
16. Robert Gates, McNeil and Lehrer News Hour, 20 January 1992.
17. General Accounting Office, Biological Warfare: Better Controls in DODs Research Could Prevent Unneeded Expenditures (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1990), 5.
18. Office of Technology Assessment, 39.
19. Army, U.S. Army Activity in the U.S. Biological Warfare Programs, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1977), D 2, 3.
20. Ibid., 51.
21. Office of Technology Assessment, 39. See also, Robert H. Kupperman and David M. Smith, Coping With Biological Terrorism, in Roberts, 41.
22. Office of Technology Assessment, 41.
23. Ibid., 54.
24. Ibid., 8.
26. R. Jeffrey Smith, Iraq Had Program for Germ Warfare, The Washington Post, 6 July 1995, 1.
27. George Friel, quoted in Chem-Bio Defense Agency Will Tackle Last Major Threat to a Deployed Force, Armed Forces Journal, 1992, 10.
28. General Accounting Office, 1.
29. Office of Technology Assessment, 11.
30. Ibid., 39.
31. Ibid., 80.
32. Ibid., 38.
33. Theodore Rosebury, Peace or Pestilence: Biological Warfare and How to Avoid It (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1949), 60.
34. John J. Fialka, CIA Says North Korea Appears Active in Biological, Nuclear Arms, The Wall Street Journal, 25 February 1993, 16.
35. Kupperman and Smith, 42.
36. Arkady N. Shevchenko, Breaking With Moscow (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 174.
37. "Biological Plant Bombed, London: Reuters Wire Service, 3 February 1991.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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