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Chemical and Biological Defense

The Department of Defense believes it is increasingly likely that an adversary will use chemical or biological weapons against US forces to degrade superior US conventional warfare capabilities, placing service members' lives and effective military operations at risk. Currently, more than 20 states or non-state groups either have, or have an interest in acquiring, chemical weapons. Also, about 12 countries are believed to have biological warfare programs, and terrorist groups are known to be interested in these weapons. Potential adversaries, especially in the Middle East and Northeast Asia, have chemical and biological weapons stocks and the means to deliver them. U.S. forces therefore need to be properly trained and equipped to operate in a chemically or biologically contaminated environment.

When the threat of chemical and biological weapons use occurred during the Gulf War, deploying U.S. forces encountered a wide array of problems, including unsuitable and inadequate supplies of protective equipment, inadequate training in its use, and unsatisfactory chemical and biological detectors. By 2000, the readiness of early deploying US forces to operate in a chemically or biologically contaminated environment had generally improved. Military units are generally expected to have at least 70 percent of their equipment requirements on hand. Chemical and biological defense training continues to be a problem area.

The management of the Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) is diffuse, with numerous offices and activities responsible for separate aspects, notwithstanding the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994's (P.L. 103-160) attempt to bring oversight under one organizational authority. Concurrence on program direction is therefore sometimes difficult to achieve. This act required the Secretary of Defense to assign responsibility for overall coordination and integration of the Chemical and Biological Defense program to a single office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and to designate the Army as executive agent to coordinate and integrate the chemical and biological research, development, test and evaluation, and acquisition requirements of the military departments. Although this office was established shortly thereafter, many aspects of DOD's management of chemical and biological defense remain spread between this office, the military services, and other DOD organizations.

The objective of the Department of Defense Chemical and Biological Defense Program is to enable US forces to survive, fight, and win in a chemically or biologically contaminated warfare environment. The DoD CBDP provides development and procurement of systems to enhance the ability of US forces to deter and defend against CB agents during regional contingencies. The probability of US forces encountering CB agents during worldwide conflicts remains high. An effective defense reduces the probability of a CB attack, and if an attack occurs, it enables US forces to survive, continue operations, and win.

Scientific, technological, and resource limitations remain in preventing US forces from having complete full dimensional protection and meeting all requirements for two nearly simultaneous Major Theater Wars. The unique physical, toxicological, destructive, and other properties of each threat requires that operational and technological responses be tailored to the threat. To minimize the impact of use of NBC weapons on US forces, the DoD CBDP will continue to work towards increasing the defensive capabilities of Joint Forces to survive and continue the mission during conflicts that involve the use of NBC weapons. NBC defense programs are managed jointly under the oversight of a single office within DoD.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:42:28 ZULU