Where Are the WMDs? the Reality of Chem-Bio Threats on the Home Front and the Battlefield

By Tracey, Richard S. | Air & Space Power Journal, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Where Are the WMDs? the Reality of Chem-Bio Threats on the Home Front and the Battlefield


Tracey, Richard S., Air & Space Power Journal


Where Are the WMDs? The Reality of Chem-Bio Threats on the Home Front and the Battlefield by Al Mauroni. Naval Institute Press (http:// www.usni.org/press/press.html), 291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5034, 2006, 272 pages, $28.95 (hardcover).

At the outset of his book, Al Mauroni announces that "he has a reputation . . . for sounding off with brash observations and untested concepts" (p. xi). This is not exactly the preferred intellectual foundation for a solid analytical work on a complex, contentious, and highly technical topic. However, with a wide range of practical experience and solid credentials, Mauroni appears well suited to this task of explaining chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) policy development and implementation. A former member of the Army Chemical Corps, he has served as a consultant to the Joint Staff as well as the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for the Elimination of Chemical Weapons and has published a number of books and articles on the subject. Thus, Where Are the WMDs? reflects Mauroni's detailed knowledge of how the Department Defense (DOD) develops and implements counterproliferation policy and consequence management as well as the operational details of defending our military forces against CBRN threats.

Consequently, this is not the television series 24. Readers will not find a Jack Bauer archetype between these covers chasing terrorists and other evildoers. Instead, they will find conscientious midlevel policy makers, program managers, and operational planners navigating the DOD's bureaucratic labyrinth in an effort to define a diffuse mix of CBRN threats, set priorities, and design a useful mix of policies, plans, and programs to protect our military forces as well as the homeland.

This bureaucratic tour d'horizon may not be exciting, but it reflects the essential business of strategy development, coordination, and implementation. It is within our national security bureaucracy that the ends (objectives) of national strategy are sliced, diced, strained, and turned into ways (policies) and means (resources). Although a bit unwieldy at times, Where Are the WMDs? will help the diligent reader understand how we got to where we are today and, by providing a road map for understanding the bureaucratic labyrinth, thus avoid roadblocks and culs-de-sac. Therefore, although this book is not for everyone, it is a necessary read for anyone involved in developing policies, crafting operational plans, and providing the resources to deal with CBRN threats.

The author introduces the overarching theme in the first chapter when he correctly asserts that the "very term 'WMD' [weapon of mass destruction] has lost any definable parameters that would make it useful for public discussions" (p. 17). "WMD" has indeed become a meaningless bugaboo that frightens the public, obviating analytical rigor and useful risk assessment. Not all threats are equal, and not all unconventional weapons are WMDs. The qualitative and quantitative differences in the range of unconventional CBRN threats packed under the WMD rubric are vast, and each threat presents unique development, deployment, and employment challenges to our adversaries, thus presenting us a range of defensive challenges. …

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