Academic journal article Strategic Forum

DOD and Consequence Management: Mitigating the Effects of Chemical and Biological Attack

Academic journal article Strategic Forum

DOD and Consequence Management: Mitigating the Effects of Chemical and Biological Attack

Article excerpt


* The threat of chemical and biological weapons attack against U.S. forces and population centers, as well as those of our allies, is real and growing. Mitigating the effects of such an attack--consequence management--is an essential part of responding to the threat.

* Many state and local governments have improved their capabilities to deal with this challenge. While progress is being made at the federal level, several departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense (DOD), are struggling to develop and coordinate effective responses.

* DOD organization, planning, and funding for consequence management fail to reflect the complexity of today's security environment, including: the potential for asymmetric warfare, the vulnerability of military facilities at home and abroad, and the indiscriminate character of chemical and biological weapons when used against military facilities near civilian population centers.

* Within DOD, effective consequence management is constrained by the presence of arbitrary conceptual and organizational divisions that inadequately define the response according to the nature, location, and target of the attack.

* The lack of an integrated DOD approach to many similar and overlapping consequence management activities involving the same resources and units contributes to poorly-defined mission requirements, organizational confusion, and inefficient resource allocation.

* These problems lead to unrealistic planning assumptions regarding the ability of DOD to conduct overseas operations in case of a major chemical or biological attack in the United States.

Planning for the Unthinkable

Many analysts believe that the use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) by terrorists or rogue states against the United States is probable. Underlying this concern is the growing realization that traditional deterrence--and especially fear of massive retaliation--is less reliable against such threats. Nonstate actors may feel immune from a retaliatory response, while rogue states may believe that the benefits of using CBW outweigh the potential risks--especially if they can avoid attribution. U.S. policymakers must plan for and prepare to deal with the consequences of such an attack.

Domestically, primary responsibility for consequence management lies with local and state authorities. Yet, federal support, from medical care to remediation, will also be critical. For this reason, the government is devoting substantial attention and resources to developing an efficient federal response that draws on the capabilities of all relevant departments and agencies, including: DOD, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Heath and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The DOD Role

Because of its specialized expertise, the 1996 Nunn-Lugar-Domenici legislation directed the DOD to develop the Domestic Preparedness Program to provide consequence management training in 120 cities for first responders, such as police and emergency personnel. Although the program is being transferred to the Justice Department, expectations about DOD involvement in domestic consequence management remain high. Because DOD possesses unique chemical and biological defense assets, as well as substantial medical, security, and logistics capabilities, it is likely to be an important component of the overall federal response. For this reason, DOD established a new Joint Task Force for Civil Support (JTF-CS) in October 1999 as part of the Joint Forces Command organized to replace Atlantic Command. The JTF-CS will control military resources supporting the lead federal agencies in responding to a domestic terrorist incident involving CBW. In addition, a new position in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Civil Support (ATSD-CS), has been created to provide civilian oversight. …

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