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United States Introduces New Biological Weapons Security Strategy

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — The United States takes biological weapons threats seriously, and the Obama administration has adopted a new approach that is designed to counter today’s threats while preventing the misuse of science, Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher says.

“President Obama fully recognizes that a major biological weapons attack on one of the world’s major cities could cause as much death and economic and psychological damage as a nuclear attack,” Tauscher said December 9 at an international conference in Geneva on the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The convention entered into force March 26, 1975, and to date approximately 160 nations have ratified it.

“We believe we have developed an approach that strikes a balance between supporting scientific progress and curbing and stopping the potential for abuse,” she said.

The White House formally released its National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats ( ) (PDF, 480KB) December 9 in Washington.

Tauscher, who is undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the strategy promotes global health security by increasing the availability of research and products to reduce the impact of outbreaks from infectious diseases — natural or man-made. In addition, the United States will work toward establishing and reinforcing norms against the misuse of the life sciences, she said.

The United States will also work to curb the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons. And the United States pledged to reinvigorate the convention as the primary forum for global outreach and coordination, she said.

Tauscher told delegates to the international conference that a few envelopes containing anthrax spores paralyzed the Congress in October 2001 just weeks after terrorists attacked the United States on September 11.

Tauscher, then a member of Congress, said her office along with the others in the Senate and House of Representatives was closed for nearly eight weeks to be fully sanitized.

The United States is “steadfast” in its commitment to the convention and will continue to meet its commitments to not develop, acquire, produce or possess biological weapons, Tauscher said. But she added that the United States will not seek to revive negotiations on a verification protocol to the convention.

“We have carefully reviewed previous efforts to develop a verification protocol and have determined that a legally binding protocol would not achieve meaningful verification or greater security,” Tauscher said. “We believe that a protocol would not be able to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of the biological weapons threat.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site:
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