DOD Warns of Increased Threat From Weapons of Mass Destruction

 In China, C4ISR, GDI, Defense, Air

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Feb. 13, 2020)

Massachusetts National Guard sol­diers evac­u­ate a patient as part of a readi­ness eval­u­a­tion at Camp Dawson, W.Va. on Sept. 7, 2018. (DoD photo)

The threat posed by the use and pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion is rising, a Defense Department offi­cial told a House Armed Services Committee panel.

China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions have, or are pur­su­ing, WMD capa­bil­i­ties that could threat­en the United States or U.S. inter­ests, Theresa Whelan, prin­ci­pal deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for home­land defense and global secu­ri­ty, said at a Feb. 11 hear­ing of the sub­com­mit­tee on intel­li­gence and emerg­ing threats and capa­bil­i­ties.

Whelan was joined by Alan R. Shaffer, deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion and sus­tain­ment, who also serves as acting assis­tant defense sec­re­tary for nuclear, chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal defense pro­grams. Navy Vice Adm. Timothy G. Szymanski, deputy com­man­der of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Vayl S. Oxford, direc­tor of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and under­sec­re­tary of defense for acqui­si­tion and sus­tain­ment, also tes­ti­fied.

“[The] WMD threat land­scape is con­tin­u­ous­ly chang­ing,” Whelan told the panel. “Rapid biotech­nol­o­gy advances are increas­ing the poten­tial, vari­ety and ease of access to bio­log­i­cal weapons.”

Whelan said DOD aims to use the National Defense Strategy’s three lines of effort to counter weapons of mass destruc­tion. One of the pri­ma­ry objec­tives is to ensure lethal­i­ty by making sure U.S. forces can oper­ate in an envi­ron­ment con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by chem­i­cal, bio­log­i­cal, radi­o­log­i­cal and nuclear weapons, which denies adver­saries the ben­e­fits of using weapons of mass destruc­tion, she said.

Even before its char­ter was signed, the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Unity of Effort Council began work­ing with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to review readi­ness require­ments and ensure it is pre­pared to meet them, she added.

Another of the National Defense Strategy’s lines of effort is reform, and to ensure the best return on invest­ment, Whelan said, DOD’s policy office is lead­ing an effort through the CWMD Unity of Effort Council to pri­or­i­tize threats and pro­vide relat­ed policy guid­ance for the depart­ment to orga­nize oper­a­tions, activ­i­ties and invest­ments around a cohe­sive threat pic­ture.

A core tenet of many of the coun­cil’s pro­grams, she added, is strength­en­ing alliances and build­ing part­ner­ships, the National Defense Strategy’s third line of effort.

Through its work to reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruc­tion, DOD empow­ers its part­ners to detect, pre­vent and reduce threats on their own, Whelan said.

“This reduces the burden on DOD resources, allows for greater inter­op­er­abil­i­ty and reduces WMD threats world­wide,” she told the sub­com­mit­tee. “The DOD CWMD enter­prise’s agili­ty and exper­tise will enable us to address the exist­ing and emerg­ing WMD threats of 2020 and beyond.”

Consistent with the National Defense Strategy, the effort’s high­est pri­or­i­ty is main­tain­ing the nuclear tri­ad’s via­bil­i­ty and mod­ern­iza­tion of the nuclear triad as an effec­tive deter­rent, Shaffer told the House panel. The triad refers to the three cat­e­gories of nuclear deliv­ery sys­tems: land-based inter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, sub­ma­rine-launched bal­lis­tic mis­siles and strate­gic aerial bombers.

“At nearly the same level, we aim to ensure that no sol­dier, sailor, airman or Marine is harmed by chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal weapons, and, specif­i­cal­ly, to increase empha­sis on the emerg­ing chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal war­fare threats that we are seeing come into the field now,” he said.

Emphasis is needed on rebuild­ing an effec­tive and diverse work­force that can handle future threats, Shaffer said. “We’re at an inter­est­ing time for coun­ter­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion,” he added, “as the con­ver­gence of anoth­er number of sci­en­tif­ic dis­ci­plines, includ­ing arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, mol­e­c­u­lar engi­neer­ing and system-level auton­o­my, are open­ing the door for the devel­op­ment of new chal­lenges.”

Whether it is Russia or China upgrad­ing their nuclear forces with new and advanced nuclear weapons, or the use of chem­i­cal weapons in 2018 in England, threats from weapons of mass destruc­tion con­tin­ue to evolve, mod­ern­ize and expand, he said.

One role of Special Operations Command is as DOD’s coor­di­nat­ing author­i­ty for coun­ter­ing weapons of mass destruc­tion. “Our goal is to posi­tion the depart­ment to sup­port just such coor­di­nat­ed action and nur­ture those key rela­tion­ships to pre­vent the emer­gence of weapons of mass destruc­tion capa­bil­i­ties, pro­tect the United States and its cit­i­zens in our nation­al inter­est of threat actors, either devel­op­ing new or advanc­ing exist­ing pro­grams and respond to and mit­i­gate the effects of any use,” Szymanski said.

Oxford said the United States must adopt global part­ner­ships and a global per­spec­tive to fully iden­ti­fy the global threat net­works asso­ci­at­ed with China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

“To address [the] global nature of the threat, we have ampli­fied our part­ner­ship with [U.S. Southern Command] to take on addi­tion­al sup­port for the geo­graph­i­cal com­man­ders respon­si­ble for deal­ing with these adver­saries,” he said.

-ends-

Source: Defense Aerospace

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