Confronting Biological Threats to the Homeland
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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One of the most important priorities for any government is to protect society from lethal threats. Part of that mission necessarily involves guarding against the havoc that biological forces are capable of wreaking on any population. Such forces can come in the form of pandemics or very serious epidemics-deadly communicable diseases that can ravage communities and potentially threaten the fabric of society. While such diseases have surfaced throughout history in discrete areas of the world, the interdependent, global nature of todays world can facilitate their rapid spread across oceans and continents. This naturally occurring peril is compounded by the fact that the modern wonders of science and technology enable dangerous individuals and groups to harness these potent biological forces, turning them into actual weapons of mass destruction. While such natural threats as pandemic influenza have yet to reach fully efficient human-to-human transmission, our post-911 society faces a more immediate, manmade threat from individuals seeking to unleash destruction. In the wake of 911, we saw anthrax attacks at home, and we have since seen ricin attacks in other parts of the world. In response to these dangers, we have taken a number of steps to help mitigate at least some of the risk. And we have begun to think seriously and in a disciplined fashion about how to plan for dealing with a major natural pandemic or biological attack. The challenge is to act decisively and effectively to minimize damage in an environment in which there will be imperfect information and potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives lost. The key to meeting the challenge is to approach it in a systematic, comprehensive way. We must fully examine the biological threats we face, address the capabilities we must continue to build in order to mitigate them, and consider the complex legal and ethical issues that will arise during a biological calamity if ever we have one.
- Civil Defense
- Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare