Accession Number:

ADA446692

Title:

Defining "Weapons of Mass Destruction"

Descriptive Note:

Occasional paper

Corporate Author:

NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:

2006-01-01

Pagination or Media Count:

60.0

Abstract:

In January 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that U.S. Strategic Command become the lead combatant commander for integrating and synchronizing DoD Department of Defense in combating WMD weapons of mass destruction. The Secretarys memorandum raised a thorny problem with clear bureaucratic implications what are weapons of mass destruction This is not an easily answered question. There are numerous definitions of WMD with some official or semi-official standing more than 40 are identified in this paper, although most are variations of 1 of 5 basic definitions. Even DoD has adopted alternative and fundamentally inconsistent definitions, including some different from the one used by the White House in its strategy and policy documents. Depending on the definition adopted, the scope of the combating WMD mission could change substantially. Hence, selecting an appropriate definition was a critical step in determining the appropriate range of the responsibilities assigned to Strategic Command. This paper explores the issue of defining weapons of mass destruction. To give historical context for the rest of the paper, the first several sections summarize how the term has been used in disarmament negotiations, U.S. national security policy, Soviet and Russian military doctrine, and American political discourse. Next, the paper identifies alternative definitions for WMD, addresses some of the key policy issues associated with different definitions, and proposes a definition appropriate for DoD. The following sections expand upon the use of the term throughout recent history, from its first appearance in 1937 through developments after World War II and subsequent international negotiations. Finally, the conclusion provides some suggestions for future use of the term within the U.S. Government. Appendixes contain Executive Branch, federal law, international, and state law definitions of WMD.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Linguistics
  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare
  • Nuclear Weapons

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE