Report: U.S. unable to keep up with CBRN threats

The U.S. cannot afford to develop defenses to all of the possible chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons being developed today, according to the results of a blue-ribbon study. More alarming, the U.S. has a "poor understanding" of its adversaries' intentions for ever using them, and an even lesser handle on how to stop them.

As a result, the National Research Council is calling on Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense Gerald Parker to take some "bold moves" to get his house in order.

"The U.S. simply cannot afford to deal with all threats on an individual basis, and there is no universal solution - it has to choose which problems to solve," the National Research Council said, in the findings of a study released Monday.

The panel reviewed DOD's Chemical and Biological Defense Program, which includes several defense offices and agencies, to determine what capabilities DOD possesses and how much needs to kept alive inside the Pentagon or could be better found in the civilian world. One problem: all of those offices and agencies.

The panel found that almost all of DOD's core "science and technology needs" for the defense of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons already exist outside of the military, but argues that a culture change is needed to bridge that gap.

The military, the group argues, needs to seek out breakthroughs and promote "blue sky thinking" to partner better with private research and development. "The committee found that almost all of the capabilities can be found outside of the service laboratories."

The NRC found it difficult to fully evaluate secretive military capabilities. But while some commercial capabilities often exceed military ones, the panel argued they also can be prohibitively expensive to move them into DOD.

For example, DOD is well-suited for using "Animal Models" (as PETA is well-aware, the military uses live animals for testing) and discovering methods of decontamination.

But the Pentagon is poor where defense or pharmaceutical industries or other government agencies excel, such as in developing the instruments to detect chemical or biological agents, or analyze how they are transported.

Additionally the missions of the many offices working under the program are "far from  seamless." NRC called on Parker's office to align "all of the program elements and offices."

"Bold moves are needed to break the current stagnation that permeates the chemical and biological [science and technology] and acquisition environment. Tweaking the management or refocusing a few projects will not be sufficient."

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