A bipartisan group which includes as its members Senators Bob Graham and Jim Talent recently released a report on America’s preparedness, or lack thereof, in the event of a biological attack. Below, some excerpts:
THE BIPARTISAN WMD TERRORISM RESEARCH CENTER’S
21ST CENTURY BIOLOGICAL THREATS
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.
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.
Studies indicate that new strains of influenza and other newly emerging diseases are likely to spread even more broadly and quickly due to the mobility of the world’s population. Additionally, many of the diseases once managed with medical countermeasures are now re-emerging in strains resistant to drug therapies.2 And modern technology threatens to speed the development of such novel diseases and enhance the threat they pose to the population at large.
The emergence of such a deadly pandemic, for which the nation was unprepared to respond, could change America forever. Naturally occurring disease remains a serious biological threat; however, a thinking enemy armed with these same pathogens—or with multi–drug-resistant or synthetically engineered pathogens— could produce catastrophic consequences.
As technology spreads, the growing challenge of attribution may also make us even more vulnerable than in the past.
Until now, the combination of the Biological Weapons Convention and traditional deterrence has prevented nationstate use of bioweapons. But, deterrence is largely ineffective against non-state actors because they are hard to find and hold accountable. Should rogue nationstates provide sophisticated bioweapons to non-state actors, while remaining “a silent partner” to bioterrorism, the problem would be compounded.
The threat of biological disaster is real and growing. There are people in this world with the capability and the intent to use biological weapons. Americans are vulnerable to such an attack, as we are to a naturally occurring disease pandemic. The consequences of either could harm the fabric of the nation itself.