Biological Warfare Research: The Means To Counter The
Biological Weapon Threat
AUTHOR LCdr. Ronald J. Ellis, USN
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
TITLE: BIOLOGICAL WARFARE RESEARCH: THE MEANS TO COUNTER THE
BIOLOGICAL WEAPON THREAT
THESIS: The emerging biological weapon threat is infinitely more
lethal, indiscriminate, and easily employed than nuclear weapons
and, as a result, a defensive vice offensive biological warfare re-
search program is needed to counter this threat.
ISSUE: Throughout history, many countries (including the United
States) have had active biological weapon development programs. The
extensive use of chemical weapons in WWI led 40 countries to sign the
Geneva Protocol of 1925 which prohibited first use of chemical and
biological weapons but placed no constraints on research, production,
and stockpiling. In subsequent years until 1972. the major industrial
powers maintained active development programs. With U.S. leadership
in deciding to destroy its stockpiles and renounce the use of biologi-
cal weapons, more than 100 nations signed the 1972 Biological and
Toxin Weapons Convention. However, the convention has a major loop-
hole: it permits research for defense against biological weapons.
Despite the 1925 treaty and 1972 convention, the Soviet Union has
expanded biological weapon production, testing, and storage facili-
ties. Recent developments in biotechnology (genetic engineering)
offer unlimited possibilities for new biological agents and applica-
tions. Biotechnology and the availability of production equipment
increases the ease of manufacture of biological weapons by Third
World countries, terrorists, and/or terrorist supporting organiza-
tions. To counter the biological weapon threat, the U.S. is pursu-
ing a medical research program to defend against as many perceived
threats as possible. Military scientists (U.S. Army) are attempting
to incapacitate potentially hazardous agents, develop detection
methods, preventive measures (vaccines), treatment methods (drugs),
and protection as well as decontamination capabilities. Interna-
tionally, other countermeasures include strengthening the 1972 con-
vention norms against biological weapons with sanctions, fostering
openness and exchange of information and researchers between coun-
tries, and encouraging other countries (especially the Middle East)
to sign/ratify the convention.
CONCLUSION: The U.S. is highly vulnerable to strategic and tacti-
cal use of biological weapons as well as state-supported and indivi-
dual terrorism. In countering this threat, medical protection is an
important reality in addition to physical defense. Consequently, a
biological research program is needed to develop strategies, products,
information, procedures, and training for medical defense against bio-
logical warfare agents. The U.S., in cooperation with its friends and
allies, must strive to prevent biological weapon proliferation by rein-
forcing the moral, legal, and political constraints against biological
weapons and, where feasible, prevent nations from obtaining the resources
and technology for biological weapon purposes.
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE RESEARCH: THE MEANS TO COUNTER THE BIOLOGICAL
THESIS STATEMENT. The emerging biological weapon threat is in-
finitely more lethal, indiscriminate, and easily employed than nu-
clear weapons and, as a result, a defensive vice offensive biologi-
cal warfare research program is needed to counter this threat.
A. History of Biological Weapon Use
4. Korean War
B. U.S. Biological Warfare Research Program Development
C. Biological Weapon Treaties/Conventions
II. Concerns and Threats
A. Biological Weapons
2. Hazards/Health Effects
3. Use considerations
B. Soviet Union
5. Special Operations
A. U.S. Biological Warfare Research Program
1. Strategies (Defensive and Offensive)
2. Research examples
2. Strengthening measures
A. History of Biological Weapon Use
B. Biological Weapon Treaty/Convention Provisions
C. Biological Weapon Concerns/Threats
D. Biological Weapon Threat Countermeasures
E. Future Biological Weapon Control Measures
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE RESEARCH: THE MEANS TO
COUNTER THE BIOLOGICAL WEAPON THREAT
With the emphasis on nuclear weapons development by the super-
powers, another type of lethal destruction almost forgotten has been
biological weapons. Today, however, a new weapons threat is emerging
which is potentially more lethal, indiscriminate, and easily employed
than nuclear weapons. Consequently, a defensive vice offensive bio-
logical warfare (BW) research program is needed to counter this threat.
Biological (as well as chemical) weapons have long fascinated mili-
tary planners and science fiction writers. Examples include: LSD in
the drinking water, a toxin in the tip of an umbrella to stab an un-
suspecting enemy agent, a debilitating epidemic to weaken a hostile
population, and a pacifying gas that makes opposing troops lie on the
ground helplessly laughing while the "friendlies" take control.
In reality, however, history is replete with the practice of BW.
Two thousand years ago, the Greeks and Romans used human and animal
corpses with great effect to poison enemy drinking water wells. Simi-
lar tactics were employed more recently in the American Civil War and
in the Boer War. Less crude, perhaps, was the practice of throwing
bodies of plague victims over the walls of cities under seige. The
Tartars employed this strategem against the Genoese in Crimea in 1346.
So Successful were these attacks that the Genoese were forced to leave.
In doing so, they helped spread the Black Death (plague) to Italy.
In colonial days, the British gave American Indians "gifts" of smallpox-
carrying blankets resulting in high Indian mortality.1
In World War I, extensive use of chemical weapons killed or injured
more than a million soldiers and civilians.2 Outrage at these deaths
prompted 40 nations in 1925 to the sign the Geneva Protocol which pro-
hibited the first use of chemical and biological weapons but placed no
constraints on research, production, and stockpiling. In subsequent
years, most major industrial powers maintained active development pro-
grams. (Although the United States signed the Geneva Protocal, it did
not ratify the treaty until 1975).
In World War II, the British were concerned that the Germans might
use biological weapons and, as a result, launched an intensive research
program which resulted in a brucellosis weapon by November, 1945.
Britain also ordered anthrax bombs from the U.S. as Prime Minister
Churchill stated 'should this mode of warfare be employed against us."3
Churchill had been told by his military advisors (and he agreed with
them) that the only deterrent for biological weapons, should the Ger-
mans use them, was the ability to retaliate in kind.
Far more serious was Japanese experimentation with biological wea-
pons in WWII. Large areas of China were used as a testing ground. In
addition, Japanese scientists experimented on several thousand human
guinea pigs. Most of these people were Chinese, Russian, and American
POW's. All prisoners were killed in the course of testing biological
agents which caused plague, typhus, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, and
smallpox among others.
In the Korean War, the U.S. was accused by North Korea and China
of conducting BW. Apparently unexplained outbreaks of plague, an-
thrax, smallpox, cholera, and plant disease prompted the accusation.
An international tribunal of scientists investigated the charges and
concluded that the evidence (mostly circumstantial) did indeed suggest
that the U.S. used BW. The U.S., however, vehemently denied these
The United States (U.S. Army) started conducting BW research in
1941 but its efforts did not become substantial until 1942.5 Impetus
to this program was provided by a National Academy of Sciences commit-
tee report which concluded that an enemy attacking with biological
weapons could gravely harm human beings, crops, and livestock. 6 Al-
though the report stressed defense and called for work on vaccines
and protection of the water supply, the committee also recommended
that the U.S. conduct research on the offensive potential of bacterial
weapons. This resulted in increased funding for the program to include
new/additional facilities such as Camp (now Fort) Detrick and Dugway
Proving Grounds in Utah. With the additional resources, technological
advances were made with the production of anthrax and botulin.
The U.S. BW research program was further enhanced in 1944 by Allied
intelligence reports that German missile warheads might be loaded with
germ warfare agents.7 As a result, anthrax bombs were manufactured and
servicemen were innoculated against botulin hoping to convince the Ger-
mans that Allied troops were preparing for biological retaliation.
Later, for reasons still unknown, it was learned that Hitler barred all
research on offensive biological warfare. The American program --
developed to deal with a threat that never existed -- remained untried.
Against Japan, emphasis shifted from biological weapons to bac-
teriological agents to crop defoliants.8 A plan was drawn up to des-
troy Japan's rice crop but it was rejected for tactical reasons --
bombing Japan's industry and cities would be more effective. Consi-
deration was also given to U.S. use of gas and germ weapons if Japan
broke the Geneva Protocol and used gas agents but the U.S. used the
atomic bomb and the war ended shortly thereafter.
The U.S. continued the development and stockpiling of biological
weapons until 1969, when, in response to the anti-war sentiments of
the Vietnam era, President Nixon renounced the use of "lethal biologi-
cal agents and weapons" and in the future would confine its biologi-
cal research to defensive measures such as immunization and safety
measures. Nixon's actions, and the disposal of the stocks of bio-
logical agents, gave added impetus to the campaign to outlaw BW, which
resulted in the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in which
the U.S. and more than 100 other nations signed and many agreed to ban
What is the concern regarding biological weapons? A paramount con-
cern, obviously, is their potentially hazardous nature and resulting
health effects. Basically, biological weapons are bacteria, viruses,
fungi, or rickettsia (a form of bacteria) which are used in wartime to
cause disease or death in people, animals, and/or plants. Some bac-
teria are so toxic that an initial small amount can be lethal. In
other cases, and particularly with viruses, the disease results from
the infectious agent multiplying inside the host cell and destroying
it before moving on to new cells. Eventually, the viruses overwhelm
the body's defensive mechanisms. Viruses are not viable on their own;
they need to grow inside other cells. Bacteria, on the other hand,
are viable and require only a source of food for growth. Viruses are
toxic in their own right, but in the case of bacteria, it is usually
the toxins they produce which are dangerous. For example, clostridium
botulinum bacteria are dangerous because of the botulinal toxins they
produce. Better known as botulism, the toxins are often the cause of
Unlike chemical weapons, only a small quantity of biological agent
would be required to start an epidemic. The organisms used live and
multiply inside their host, eventually overwhelming the body defenses.
In selecting an organism to be used, a principal requirement is that
it be reasonably robust and able to withstand the processes used to
make it into a weapon. Most biological agents have a limited life
in storage during which their biological activity is continuously de-
clining. To offset having to use much larger quantities of a less
active preparation, steps would have to be taken continually to re-
plenish stocks. As a means of slowing down the rate of decay, agents
would either be stored at very low temperatures or else dried by
When they come to be used, most biological agents would be dis-
persed in aerosol form. A typical bomblet, designed expressly for
spreading a dried preparation of the agent, might have a small cy-
linder of compressed air arranged to direct an air current up through
the powdered agent (or along a surface) and out of an exit port. Bio-
logical agents can also be spread by missiles, artillery, mines,
rockets, and cluster bombs or dispersed from aircraft tanks as a pow-
der or slurry. Efficient dispersal of an agent is crucial to its
successful use; no less important is the viability of the organism
once it has been sprayed.
Also, the robustness of an organism is most important when it has
been sprayed, for the agent needs to be active for some time after its
dispersal in order to cause injury. Temperature, humidity, and ultra-
violet light can all influence the viability of a biological agent in
the field. An organism which is very sensitive to temperature extremes
might, therefore, only be used in a temperate climate at certain times
of the year.
All these considerations do not prevent there being a long list of
potential biological agents/weapons. There are about 52 pathogenic
microorganisms available to suit most circumstances. For example,
for an epidemic a highly contagious virus or bacteria would probably
be chosen. An influenza virus or pneumonic plague bacillus would
satisfy the requirements for a highly contagious agent transmitted
by human contact. In another situation, the bacterium which causes
brucellosis has been recognized as a potential incapacitant for some
time. A major factor in favor of this organism is that it does not
cause epidemics. Any contamination of the ground would be only
temporary i.e., days rather than weeks or years and cities, therefore,
should not need to be evacuated. Nevertheless, even though brucello-
sis lasts for only a few weeks, its effects are likely to persist
through recurrence for some time after its use.
Anthrax was (in addition to brucellosis) the object of extensive
wartime research. Why? Its lethal nature and ease of manufacture
are significant factors. Also, transmission between humans is rare;
infection occurs through skin contact via an abrasion, by inhalation,
or by ingestion. About one-fifth of the people who contract the dis-
ease through skin contact die.10 The mortality rate through inhalation
is much higher i.e., about 80 per cent of the untreated human cases
die from septicemia or blood poisoning.11
There are, however, more subtle biological weapons which can be
used to kill individuals rather than large numbers of people and which
are not the products of bacteria or viruses. These are natural toxins
such as ricin, a toxic protein in the castor bean. Long recognized as
a hazard in the manufacture of castor oil, ricin was developed as a
biological weapon by the U.S. in WWII. The protein, which is sensi-
tive to heat and easily destroyed, served as a useful model for work
being carried out on other biological weapons.
A second reason for concern is evidence that the Soviet Union --
-despite signing both the 1925 and 1972 treaties -- gives BW a high
priority in their Research and Development (R & D) programs and di-
rected other Warsaw Pact countries to do the same.12 In 1965, Soviet
doctrine for conflict in Europe traditionally has stressed the terri-
torial prize of Western Europe and the desirability of sparing the
latter's industrial base. Biological (and chemical) weapons were
seen as an expedient means toward that end. Their short and long
term plans from 1965 to the late 1970's emphasized research, train-
ing, protective equipment, and preparation of new weapons development.
More significantly, the Soviet Union has emphasized the use of biolo-
gical weapons in Spetsnaz or special force operations waged before
bar against high-value military targets such as command/control and
communications facilities, against militarily important cities, to
disrupt mobilization and paralyze civil administration in enemy terri-
tory. The role of biological weapons in sabotage or special operations
has received little notice in the U.S. threat analyses and defense
planning despite the fact that these employment options have been con-
sistently stressed in Soviet military literature and verified by de-
fectors with particular reference to the use of biological agents and
In the early 1980's, the U.S. began to suspect that the Soviet
Union had an active BW program and were stockpiling biological weapons.
Suspicions were prompted by a 1979 outbreak of anthrax that may or may
not have escaped from a facility in Sverdlovsk that the U.S. asserts
is a weapons laboratory. The Soviet authorities claimed that the in-
cident was caused by adverse weather conditions which had made sheep
and cattle susceptible to contagious diseases. The problem was ex-
acerbated, they said, by lack of personal hygiene and purchase of
unbranded meat, wool, and hides from unauthorized individuals. Un-
fortunately, due to Soviet secrecy and without an independent inves-
tigation neither account can be substantiated leaving doubt and sus-
picion. In addition, the so-called "yellow rain" (fungal toxin) said
to have fallen on Laos, Kampuchia, and Afganistan fueled further U.S.
suspicions. The U.S. maintains that the Soviet Union supplied the
toxin to Vietnam. When the Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention
was negotiated, only the U.S. acknowledged having biological wea-
pons. In contrast, the Soviet Union, to date, has never officially
acknowledged having a biological weapons program and, in fact, ad-
mitted only in 1987 to having a chemical weapons program.
Another concern is the biotechnology revolution or "genetic en-
gineering." Two developments in the 1970's triggered this revolu-
tion: recombinant DNA (or rDNA) and monoclonal antibodies (or MCA).
In rDNA, which was first successfully performed in 1973, a gene from
one DNA is extracted and inserted into the DNA of another cell. MCA
are manufactured by stimulating cells to produce desired antibody and
then fusing these cells with cancerous cells that enabled the antibody-
producing cells to generate the desired antibodies in a laboratory,
outside the parent organs in which they had previously functioned.
These and derivative technologies offer unlimited possibilities
for new biological agents and applications. Already the effectiveness
of today's biochemical potential is orders of magnitude beyond that
of the "classic" BW technology. This applies not only to quantitative
effects, but also to qualitative refinements, particularly the potential
to create rather specific physiological or psychological effects in hu-
man targets rather that the lethal effects that have dominated BW in
the past. In the future, the effects can be designed to be almost in-
stantaneous, delayed, or programmed for triggering by other discrete
events. They can also be gradually induced in individuals in order to
prevent timely diagnosis.
Known diseases can be altered or more "desirable" variants selected
through more classic microbiological techniques in order to obtain or-
ganisms that are survivable, resistant to medical treatment, difficult
to diagnose, more or less communicable, and even activated by external
factors thus making them safe to handle. New diseases for which there
is little experience can be isolated and similarly refined. Advance-
ments in biotechnology also open prospects for the development of or-
ganisms which are resistant to existing drugs and vaccines or that
produce more lethal toxins possibly by modifying normally harmless or
relatively benign microorganisms. All these new options share the
alarming attribute of silent use: the target cannot recognize (until
too late) the nature of the attack let alone its source.
Another advantage of modern biotechnology is that biological a-
gents, old or new, need not be mass-produced far in advance of their
use. Once the desired parent cells are produced, cultures can be
stored for activation when needed and the activation can be effected
remote from the site of initial manufacture. Cell cultures can be
overtly carried to target countries and subsequently manufactured there.
It is not difficult to imagine pharmaceutical, chemical, and related
firms as in Libya established as commercial fronts for this purpose.
In 1983, several American analysts independently reached the conclusion
that the Soviet Union might be applying genetic engineering to their
The last reason for concern is proliferation. In many ways, recent
progress in biotechnology increases the ease of concealment of illicit
manufacturing plants, particularly for biologically derived chemicals
such as toxins. Verification of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Con-
vention, always a difficult task, has been significantly complicated
by the new technology. The ease and rapidity of genetic manipulation
as well as the ready availability of a variety of production equipment
make it easier for nations to produce the lethal agents banned by the
As advances are made in the field of biotechnology, the potential
for using this technology for biological and toxin weapons increases
commensurately. Not only has the time from basic research to mass
production of lethal weapons decreased but the ability to create wea-
pons has increased. As a result, the potential for undetected diver-
sion from treaty constraints has increased significantly.
The recent furor over the Libyan complex near Rabta which the
U.S. alleges is manufacturing chemical and biological weapons has
drawn attention to the "poor man's atomic bomb." The U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency has stated that some 20 countries (in addition
to the U.S. and Soviet Union) now possess chemical weapons while
many other Third World nations have chemical warfare capability.15
Also, 10 nations are believed to be developing or have developed
biological weapons.16 Recently, the U.S. confirmed that Iraq is
in the latter category. The appeal of such weapons to Third World
nations is due to their cost-effectiveness and no need for sophis-
ticated technology. Cost estimates for a large-scale operation
against a civilian population are $2000 per square kilometer with
conventional weapons, $800 for nuclear weapons, $600 for nerve gas,
and $1 for biological weapons.17
There is concern about the spread of biological weapons in unstable
areas and about the prospects of these weapons falling into the hands
of terrorists or into the arsenals of those countries which actively
support terrorist organizations. To date, although there is no evi-
dence that any known terrorist organization has the capability to
employ such weapons nor that states supporting terrorism have sup-
plied such weapons, these possibilities cannot be dismissed.18 It is
known, however, that terrorists have not only undergone BW training,
but have actually been involved in the manufacture of biological wea-
pons. 19 It is logical to project, therefore, that BW at some point
will mark an escalation of tactics by terrorist organizations. This
projection is underscored by scientific advances and technology which
bring the most up-to-date capabilities within the reach of any group
determined to obtain them.
The unilateral U.S. renunciation of biological weapons in 1969 was
accomplished by the recognition that maintaining a strong program for
defense against biological weapons is essential for national security.
That requirement is reflected in Article I of the convention which
permits production of biological agents and toxins in quantities re-
quired to develop protective measures. In today's circumstances with
the concerns about compliance, proliferation, and rapid advances in
biotechnology, the requirement for defensive measures is even greater
than in 1969.
All of the above concerns have resulted in increased funding and a
thriving U.S. BW research program in recent years. However, this re-
vitalization has renewed the long-dormant controversy over military bio-
logical research. Specifically, the Department of Defense (DOD) insists
that its present program is purely defensive aimed at protecting its
personnel. Civilian scientists are skeptical; they claim that defensive
research is indistinguishable from offensive research and have refused
to do BW research for this reason. As one scientist stated, "It's like
testing a vest against bullets. You first need to have the bullets."
Intensifying concerns in recent years has been the U.S. Army's use of
genetic engineering -- a technology unanticipated by the drafters of
the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
According to Col. David Huxsoll, Commander of the U.S. Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, the nature
of genetic engineering makes it almost impossible for one nation to
verify whether another is complying with the convention.20 He and
other military planners say the U.S. must defend against the possi-
bility of terrorists or hostile nations manipulating genes to build
To counter such concerns, current military strategy is to defend
against as many perceived threats as possible.21 This includes de-
veloping a quick method for detecting biological toxins as well as
testing protective clothing and equipment against airborne toxins and
live organisms. Also, DOD-funded scientists are seeking defenses
against several disease-causing viruses, bacteria, toxins, and para-
sitic organisms. The plans call for the development of drugs and
vaccines capable of deterring several related biological weapons
rather than only a single agent. These plans are based on the hopes
of finding a common means of attack shared by a group of agents and
to learn which proteins participate in the attack. Then, theoretically,
scientists could create a vaccine designed to make the body produce
antibodies against those common proteins. One scientist is looking for
a single vaccine that will protect against a group of exotic diseases.
Another scientist has examined several related bacterial and snake-venom
toxins to find a common neutralizing epitope, a section of a toxin
protein at which an antibody can block the toxin's activity. Among 14
or 15 toxins studied so far, one antibody has been identified that neu-
tralizes as many as four different toxins. Parallel efforts in virology
seek to create vaccines against several genetic varieties of one virus.
If successful, such efforts could be extremely beneficial to civi-
lian health agencies as well as the military. But skeptics contend the
military's research goals are unrealistic. Even if military scientists
produced a vaccine against many different viruses, enemy scientists
could mutate an agent's genes to create an entirely new organism a-
gainst which the drug or vaccine would not work. However, military
scientists maintain their goals are attainable and state that it is
possible to make a vaccine against, for example, all the alphaviruses
causing human disease.
Although the military scientist's methods are essentially those
used by civilian molecular biologists to create vaccines against in-
fluenza, hepatitis B, and other infectious agents, there are some
civilian scientists who oppose military sponsorship of such studies.
These scientists say that the knowledge acquired through such genetic
research could be used to produce toxic proteins of a more dangerous
nature. Another factor troubling some people is that the basic re-
search often involves the transfer of hazardous genes into genetically
altered varieties of bacteria that live naturally in humans and could
be altered to produce incapacitating agents. Other concerned sci-
entists describe scenarios in which recombinant DNA techniques could
lead to the creation of more dangerous toxins i.e., one toxin which
poisons the cell plus a second toxin which inactivates the cell's
enzyme normally responsible for destroying the first toxin.
Military scientists explain that their BW research will not result
in such scenarios. Rather, they work at incapacitating potentially
hazardous agents instead of turning them into weapons. As Col. Hux-
soll explains, military scientists examine a virus' chemical nature,
its size, and structure. They learn what it infects, how to cripple
it, and how to grow it in limited, laboratory quantities. Scientists
making a weapon, he says, would look at how to stabilize a virus, make
it more potent and disseminate it, and how to grow it in large quanti-
There is a natural revulsion against biological weapons. In 1925,
the Geneva Protocol was established to forbid the first use of these
weapons (as well as chemical weapons). As of 1986, the protocol has
been signed by 110 nations. While this protocol prohibits the use of
these weapons, it does not prohibit production or stockpiling. Des-
pite this protocol, there have been at least 40 allegations (most not
verifiable) of either chemical or biological weapons use between 1969
Production and research into the use and effects of these weapons
continue. Those who argue for expanded U.S. investment in research on
these weapons can cite deterrence as the rationale. One might infer
that in-kind deterrence is part of Soviet doctrine based on their ex-
tensive capacity to possibly engage in BW. The U.S. Defense Intelli-
gence Agency reported that Soviet production, testing and storage
facilities were continuing to expand as of 1986.23 Another report
states that up to 2000 scientists are employed by the Institute of
Molecular Biology near Novosibirsk, the largest of three research and
development institutes believed to be concerned with BW. 24
Many western scientists argue against deterrence or defenses and
in favor of relying solely on international agreements to ban biologi-
cal weapons. Such scientists generally seem to view deterrence or de-
fense and arms control as mutually exclusive, although proponents of
the former do not necessarily oppose arms agreements in addition to
Although some persons, alarmed by reports of alleged BW activity
as well as by the proliferation of the weapons, call for improvements
in intelligence and in response capabilities, others consider these
recommendations an "irresponsible provocation" that might weaken pros-
pects to "stave off a biological arms race."25,26 Proponents of the
latter view believe that confidence in the existing legal prohibition
must be restored and that the main burden for doing so is Washington's
not Moscow's responsibility. This view believes that the best hope
for preventing the use of biological weapons is a ban on research into
medical defense against biological war, except for investigations of
"passive measures" such as protective clothing and vehicles for resis-
tance to biological agents that do not involve actual testing with
pathogenic organisms. 27,28
The lack of verification provisions in previous treaties has been
noted. Possible verification methods have been extensively discussed,
along with the difficulties which result from the relative ease of pro-
duction of chemical and biological weapons by using technology that
has many legitimate applications such as the manufacture of fertilizer,
pesticides, and pharmaceuticals. Beyond verification, assuring compli-
ance may be the key.
As discussed earlier, the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972
bans not only the use but also the development, production, and stock-
piling of biological weapons. But the pact has a major loophole: "it
does not preclude research into those offensive aspects of biological
agents necessary to determine what defensive measures are required,"
according to a 1969 statement made by then-National Security Advisor
Henry Kissinger. 29
One hopeful solution (which should quell fear, suspicion and mis-
information as well as further support U.S. efforts) would be to
strengthen the 1972 Convention. At a review in Geneva during the fall
of 1986, 67 signers of the document, including the U.S. and Soviet
Union, agreed to exchange information about unusual outbreaks of dis-
ease and to report on defensive activities they are performing in high-
containment laboratories. An American scientist who attended the
Geneva meeting suggested identifying inspection "chokepoints," in-
cluding high-containment facilities needed to develop and test deli-
very systems.30 The reasoning being that if it were known that you
couldn't get a project through the critical point, that would lessen
the incentive to develop it at all. Without such openness, the very
existence of high-containment military laboratories raises suspicions
that could start a bioweapons buildup worldwide. With the recent
changes in the Soviet Union, increased openness and even a verifica-
tion agreement might be possible.
Interestingly, the civilian biotechnology industry supports the
existing convention as well as a bill in the U.S. Congress to apply
this treaty to non-government activities. The last thing the industry
needs is for the public to associate its genetically engineered pro-
ducts with images of scientists deliberately concocting monster mi-
crobes. Also, although there is no known private-sector work in this
area, advocates of bioweapons control say the bill would reaffirm the
U.S. committment to the treaty. Similarly, developing nations want
to strengthen the pact fearing that widespread suspicion of mili-
tary intent could hamper their access to new biological technologies
needed to ease their health and hunger problems.
What else can be done to resolve problems regarding biological wea-
pons? Countries that are not parties to the convention of 1972, par-
ticularly states in the Middle East, need to be persuaded to renounce
biological and toxin weapons. Means should be explored for strength-
ening the international norms against biological weapons.
In addition to ensuring that states fulfill their committments not
to possess biological or toxin weapons, additional states should be per-
suaded to make that important committment. More than 110 states have
renounced the possession of biological and toxin weapons by becoming
parties to the convention. Unfortunately, while most states in the
Middle East have signed or acceded to the convention, only about half
have ratified it.31
In addition to resolving compliance issues and promoting broader
adherence to the convention, new approaches to making the convention
more effective are needed. One way to do this is to strengthen inter-
national reaction to proven violations of the treaty. There must be
concrete actions, including international sanctions, to put some teeth
into the reaction. Another possible way to strengthen the convention
is to encourage openness about biological activities. Here, the U.S.,
and in particular its scientific community, has and should continue
to take the lead while using diplomatic and professional methods to
push the Soviet Union and others to match this openness. Related to
this openness, is encouraging exchange of information and researchers
concerning biological research activities. By creating greater open-
ness in these areas, it is hoped that the norm against biological
weapons created by the convention can be strengthened.
After some 28 years of research, development, and stockpiling of
biological weapons, the U.S. in 1969 under Vietnam-era political pres-
sure, halted the BW program and began destruction of its biological
weapons. Three years later, the U.S. and more than 100 other nations
signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and many agreed to
ban biological weapons outright. The convention did permit research
for defense against biological weapons. The convention also encourages
exchange of scientific information, equipment, and materials for use
in research of biological agents and toxins, which also has broad ap-
plications for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.
There are political reasons to support the convention and research
against BW. Absence of this support would not only break faith with
our allies who have historically looked to the U.S. for leadership in
medical defense, but it would also signal to the other signatory na-
tions to the convention that the U.S. had lost confidence in the ef-
fectiveness and worth of the treaty. If the U.S. were to reverse
national policy and halt medical defense research, its credibility
and defense would be seriously weakened. If this change happened,
would an adversary wonder whether the program had indeed continued
but in a classified mode? This would negate international stability
and trust among nations. Or if adversaries were convinced that the
medical defense program no longer existed, would they feel that the
U.S. is vulnerable and consider a successful biological attack?
Unfortunately, treaty violations, proliferation, and advances in
biotechnology in a diminishing tactical threat environment in Europe
are being replaced by potential biological weapon development and use
by terrorist activities and some Third World Countries. This change
emphasizes the need for expanded efforts not only in medical defense
but also for increased efforts by the world diplomatic community in
mediating international disputes and for cooperation among nations
to ensure that these banned weapons are not used.
The U.S. is highly vulnerable to strategic and tactical BW
attacks as well as to state-supported and individual terrorism. The
U.S. addresses this threat only in terms of defense; it has no biolo-
gical weapons,32 This is in contrast to other weapons systems where
defensive measures and retaliatory capabilities exist together. De-
velopment of BW defense measures is directed primarily toward military
personnel who are considered to be at the highest risk. Such defense
includes many vital elements such as the gathering/analyzing of intel-
ligence information, training of personnel, publication of technical/
field manuals, maintaining security of facilities and inatallations,
and developing physical protective measures against biological agents.
In considering the biological threat, medical protection is an im-
portant reality in addition to physical defense. Therefore, to meet
these needs, the U.S. Army Biological Defense Research Program has a
large medical component that developes strategies, products, informa-
tion, procedures, and training for medical defense against BW agents.
The products include diagnostic reagents and procedures, drugs, vac-
cines, toxoids, and antitoxins.
Much of the controversy concerning research of medical defenses
against biological weapons centers around the term "biotechnology."
Technologies such as genetic engineering have opened new opportunities
for development of protective defenses. At the same time, however,
these techniques could be used by an adversary to develop biological
weapons. Col. Huxsoll believes that the controversy has focused on
the intent and content of the Biological Defense Research Program.33
The intent of the program is defense: there are moral, scientific,
and political reasons to protect military personnel from endemic di-
sease and potential BW threats. The content of the program is evi-
dence of its defensive intent: development of vaccines, drugs, diag-
nostic systems, and methods for rapid detection; identification of
disease agents; dissemination of procedures for treatment of casual-
ties; and training of personnel.
An offensive program would include research on mass producing or
storing large quantities of microorganisms, on stabilization in an
aerosol, on improving virulence or persistence, or on methods for
dissemination and weapon development. In contrast, defensive research
comprises development of biological agent detection methods, treatment
and protection, and decontamination capability.34
History indicates that this same controversy existed during WWII.
If the past gives any indication, key decisions regarding the BW pro-
gram are made in Washington not the laboratory. In WWII, scientists
provided the expertise to conceive and develop novel weapons, but they
lacked any authority to control its deployment and use.
The U.S. must continue to strive to prevent biological weapons
proliferation by reinforcing moral, legal, and political constraints
against biological weapons and, where feasible, seek to prevent na-
tions from obtaining sensitive materials and technology for biologi-
cal weapon purposes. This will be a difficult task requiring a sus-
tained multilateral approach involving both aggressive U.S. leadership
and cooperation with friends and allies.
1N. Press, "Habe's Choice, Hobson's Choice, and Biological Warfare,"
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 29 (September 1985), 92.
2Barton J. Bernstein, "The Birth of the U.S. Biological Warfare Pro-
gram," Scientific American, 256 (June 1987), 116.
3Winston Churchill personal minute to General Ismay, dtd 21 May 1944.
4Julian Lewis,"The Plan that Never Was: Churchill and the `Anthrax
Bomb'" Encounter, February, 1982, p. 18.
5Bernstein, (5/87), p. 116.
6Bernstein, p. 116.
7Bernstein, p. 116.
8Bernstein, p. 116.
9Sean Murphy et al., No Fire, No Thunder (New York: Monthly Re-
view Press, 1984), p. 45.
10Murphy, p. 45.
11Murphy, p. 45.
12Joseph D. Douglass, Jr., "The Expanding Threat of Chemical-Biological
Warfare: A Case of U.S. Tunnel-Vision," Strategic Review, 14
(Fall 1986) , 37.
13Douglass, p. 37.
14H. Allen Holmes, "Biological Weapons Proliferation," Department of
State Bulletin, 3 (July 1989), 43.
15"Turkish premier looks to superpowers for help in stopping chemical
attacks," The Wall Street Journal, (September 15, 1988), Sec-
tion 1:1, p. 26.
16"Quest for way to block biological weapons is itself called a threat,"
The Wall Street JournaI, (September 19, 1988), Section 1:1,
17J.D. Douglass, Jr. and N.C. Livingstone, America the Vulnerable:
The Threat of Chemical and Bioliogical Warfare (Lexington, Mass:
Lexington Books, 1987).
18Holmes, (July, 1989), p.43.
19Douglass, (Fall 1986), p. 37.
20Melissa Hendricks, "Germ Wars," Science News, 134 (December 1987),
21Hendricks, p. 392.
22C. Piller and K.R. Yamamoto, Gene Wars: Military Control Over the
New Genetic Technologies (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1988).
23Jane M. Orient, M.D., "Chemical and Biological Warfare: Should De-
fenses Be Researched and Deployed?," The Journal of the American
Medical Association, 262 (August 4, 1989), 644.
24E. Le Chene, Chemical and BiologicaI Warfare - - Threat of the Fu-
ture (Toronto: Mackenzie Institute, 1989).
25Douglass and Livingstone, (1987).
26R. Falk, "Dangers to Avert," Science, 243 (January 27, 1989), 552.
27Piller and Yamamoto, (1988).
28 Falk, (January 27 1989), p. 552.
29Hendricks, (December 1987), p. 392.
30Mimi Bluestone, "How to Put More Backbone Into the Bioweapons Treaty,"
Business Week, August 10, 1987, p. 67.
31 Holmes, (July 1989), p. 43.
32 David L. Huxsoll, Cheryl D. Parrot, and William C. Patrick, III, "Me-
dicine in Defense Against Biological Weapons," Journal.of the
American Medical Association, 262 (August 4, 1989), 677.
33Huxsoll, Parrot, and Patrick, p. 677.
34Huxsoll, Parrot, and Patrick, p. 677.
Bernstein, Barton J., "The Birth of the U.S. Biological Warfare Pro-
gram," Scientific American, 256 (June 1987), p. 116-121.
Bluestone, Mimi, "How to Put More Backbone Into the Bioweapons Treaty,"
Business Week, August 1O, 1987, p. 67.
Churchill, Winston, personal minute to General Ismay, dtd 21 May 1944.
Douglass, Joseph D. Jr., "The Expanding Threat of Chemical-Biological
Warfare: A Case of U.S. Tunnel-Vision," Strategic Review, 14
(Fall 1986), p. 37-46.
Douglass, J.D. Jr. and Livingstone, N.C., America the Vulnerable:
The Threat of Chemical and Biological Warfare (Lexington, Mass:
Lexington Books, 1987).
Falk, R., "Dangers to Avert," Science, 243 (January 27, 1989), p.
Hendricks, Melissa, "Germ Wars," Science News, 134 (December 1987),
Holmes, H. Allen, "Biological Weapons Proliferation," Department of
State Bulletin, 3 (July 1989), p. 43-45.
Huxsoll, David L., Parrot, Cheryl D., and Patrick, William C., III, "Me-
dicine in Defense Against Biological Weapons," Journal of the
American Medical Association, 262 (August 4, 1989), p.677-679.
Le Chene, E., Chemical and Biological Warfare -- Threat of the Fu-
ture (Toronto: Mackenzie Institute, 1989).
Lewis, Julian, "The Plan that Never Was: Churchill and the `Anthrax
Bomb'," Encounter, February, 1982, p. 18.
Murphy, Sean, Hay, Alistar, and Rose, Steven, No Fire, No Thunder
(New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984) p. 45.
Orient, Jane M., M.D., "Chemical and Biological Warfare: Should De-
fenses Be Researched and Deployed?," The Journal of the Amer-
Can Medical Association, 262 (August 4, 1989), p. 644-648.
Piller, C. and Yamamoto, K.R., Gene Wars: Military Control Over the
New Genetic Technologies (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1988).
Press, N., "Haber's Choice, Hobson's Choice, and Biological Warfare,"
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 29 (September 1985), p.
"Quest for way to block biological weapons is itself called a threat,"
The Wall Street Journal, (September 19, 1988), Section 1:1,
"Turkish premier looks to superpowers for help in stopping chemical
attacks," The Wall Street Journal, (September 15, 1988), Sec-
tion 1:1, p. 26.
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