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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Air Force proactive in combating biological warfare

by Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

4/19/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFNEWS) -- Air Force officials have approved a new Counter-Biological Warfare Concept of Operations and Air Force Instruction to help Air Force installations better respond to biological threats.

"Until now, the Air Force hasn't had any formal guidance on how to prepare for or respond to biological attacks or large-scale biological incidents," said Col. Tom Billick, deputy director for Counterproliferation at Air Force Headquarters here. 

"The idea behind the Concept of Operations, or CONOPS, was to develop a framework for thinking about a very complex, very difficult problem," the colonel said. 

Biological threats can include naturally occurring diseases like influenza or deliberate biological weapon attacks from state actors or terrorist groups. These biological attacks or incidents can occur in a variety of ways, he said.

"People talk about a biological, chemical or radiological threat, and it sounds so far off; it doesn't have any immediacy to it," Colonel Billick said. "Biological attacks don't just happen overseas; any area where we operate could be a high-threat area."

The 2001 anthrax attacks in the District of Columbia, New York and Florida demonstrate that U.S. interests in the continental United States are just as vulnerable as U.S. interests -- including military installations -- outside the country.

"The Air Force fights from fixed sites -- from air bases," Colonel Billick said. "Those air bases are centers of gravity for our military operations. In order for us to operate from those locations successfully, we have to be able to protect those locations as best we can. In order to prepare a base to continue to operate and do its mission in a wartime or peacetime environment, we created a concept of operations."

The CONOPS is the product of an extensive 12-month assessment of the biological warfare threat to operations at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, conducted from May 2004 to April 2005. It outlines an approach to prepare for biological threats, to identify when a biological incident has occurred and to lessen the effects.

"(Pacific Air Forces) allowed us to work with Kunsan to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for how to deal with a biological attack," Colonel Billick said. "(We were looking for) procedures that we could apply across the Air Force. We asked the functional experts how they normally do business within the medical, maintenance, mission support and operations communities."

"Currently, most installations rely heavily on the medical community to respond to biological attacks or disease outbreaks. However, counter-biological response is a base-wide issue; a biological incident could potentially overpower an entire base," he said. "For example, implementing quarantine at an Air Force base requires support not only from the medical group, but it will also require significant support from services, security forces, logistics, civil engineers, public affairs, judge advocate and many others."

"The idea is for installations to be able to use the capabilities they already have the best way they can in the event they are faced with a biological attack or biological incident," Colonel Billick said.

Air Force Instruction 10-2604, Disease Containment Planning Guidance, is the vehicle that will assist installations in doing just that. The new AFI will help installations incorporate the CONOPS into their base plans and markedly increase preparedness against biological attacks and naturally occurring disease outbreaks.

"With the release of AFI 10-2604, installations will have six months to develop their own disease containment plans," Colonel Billick said. A comprehensive sample disease containment plan is available to assist installations in building their own plans.

"It's a matter of writing a base plan, and then exercising it to make sure it's actually implemented across the base," he said. "Ultimately, we'd like this to become part of the (inspector general) process as they go around inspecting Air Force bases. They already evaluate base capability to meet the requirements of the Counter-Chemical Warfare CONOPS. Now we're trying to do the same thing with the Counter-Biological Warfare CONOPS; to make it an integral part of the way the Air Force does business."

Full implementation of the CONOPS is expected to occur over the next two years.

For more information about the C-BW CONOPS or AFI 10-2604, visit Air Force Instruction 10-2604 is available on the e-Publishing Web site,

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