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Chemical-Biological Attack: Achilles Heel of the Air Expeditionary Force

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Counterproliferation paper no.4

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The U.S. National Security Strategy calls for our armed forces to help shape the international environment, respond to threats and crises, and prepare now for an uncertain future. To assist in the execution of this strategy, the U.S. Air Force is developing a new operational entity, the Air Expeditionary Force. This force will be tailored to quickly respond to crises or conflicts at any point on the globe. Given its technological and materiel superiority, the force will have no conventional equal. However, to effectively accomplish its mission the Air Expeditionary Force must have minimal redundancy in personnel and equipment and be supported over extended distances by airlift. These characteristics make the force particularly vulnerable to an asymmetric attack by chemical and biological weapons. Despite formal international prohibitions against chemical-biological weapons, recent history has documented their use against civilian and military personnel with significant consequences. Currently, twenty-five nations are known to have chemical-biological weapons and it is presumed non-state actors, such as terrorists groups have acquired them as well. Air Force leadership must neither exaggerate nor trivialize the chemical-biological threat to the Air Expeditionary Force. This paper calls for an objective and ongoing analysis of the threat and appropriate organizational response, through the creation of an Air Expeditionary Force Chemical-Biological Threat Team. This multifunctional group would evaluate how the expeditionary forces are planned, organized, trained and equipped to deal with the chemical-biological threat. With this concerted approach, the Air Expeditionary Force should avert chemical-biological defeat and prove a formidable operational entity well into the 21st century.

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  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare

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