Accession Number:



Weapons of Mass Destruction: An Untimely Response or Money Well Spent?

Descriptive Note:


Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



On November 14, 1994, President Clinton declared a National Emergency citing an extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. Strong words suggested the need for strong action from the Clinton administration. At risk was the nations security in the face of a potential terrorists use of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear devices, also known as Weapons of Mass Destruction WMD. Three years later, in a February 1997 report to the President, the Catastrophic Disaster Response Group concluded that the U.S. Government was still ill-equipped to respond to a WMD event. The author contends that the U.S. Governments efforts to craft a comprehensive response plan have been painfully slow because of bureaucratic politics. The response efforts have to cut across local, state, and federal jurisdictions, and they will involve interagency partners at all levels of government. How will the government respond when terrorists employ chemical and biological weapons on U.S. shores Understanding the dynamics of the players and the process begins with an examination of the threat and how the government plans to respond. The author attempts to answer three questions Who has jurisdictional responsibility Who has fiscal responsibility and Who is in charge Effecting a timely and efficient WMD response is not an easy task. Jurisdictional division of responsibility between local, state, and federal governments makes this even more cumbersome. The complex nature of American bureaucracy and the interagency institutions that serve them further exacerbate the problem. On one hand, local and state authorities seek to remain autonomous, but they recognize the need for federal involvement. On the other hand, legal restrictions force federal agencies to abide by a strict set of statutory and regulatory guidelines in their response. The two must be carefully coordinated.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Government and Political Science
  • Civil Defense
  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare
  • Nuclear Warfare

Distribution Statement: