Defining Weapons of Mass Destruction
Occasional paper 8
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV FORT MCNAIR DC CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
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In January 2005, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency DTRA asked the author to research the meaning of weapons of mass destruction WMD. DTRA s interest arose from the decision of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to make U.S. Strategic Command USSTRATCOM the lead combatant commander for integrating and synchronizing DOD the Department of Defense in combating WMD. This mandate, however, posed a problem. The Joint Staffs DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, the Departments repository for officially sanctioned definitions, specified that WMD are weapons capable of a high order of destruction andor of being used in such a manner as to destroy large numbers of people and can be high explosives or nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. The mention of high explosives created an obvious problem most military weaponry relies on high explosive charges, meaning that even the mortars and grenades used by infantrymen might qualify as WMD. DODs WMD definition seemed to assign USSTRATCOM oversight over almost all U.S. fighting forces, which clearly was not the Secretarys intent. Although DOD needed to revise its definition for WMD, the choice of a replacement was not obvious. Preliminary research revealed a complete lack of consensus on the terms meaning. U.S. Government entities had adopted nearly 20 alternative definitions for WMD, and this did not count additional definitions used by international organizations or state governments. DOD first adopted a WMD definition in 1961. In 1998, it replaced that definition with the one that posed such obvious problems 7 years later. The 1998 definition made DOD usage consistent with the U.S. Federal law enforcement community, which considered high explosive weapons and certain small arms as WMD.
- Nuclear Weapons