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Biological and Chemical Weapons Counterterrorism MeasuresTerm Paper

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¶ … federal agencies dedicate resources to prevent or respond to biological or chemical terrorism. Countermeasures to biological or chemical terrorism continually evolve, in response to changes in the actual weaponry as well as to the tactics and types of threats. The agencies most closely involved in biological and chemical weapon counterterrorism include the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These organizations serve different roles in counteracting biological and chemical threats, and ideally organizations like these and their state-level counterparts work together to predict and respond to threats or actual attacks. The private sector may also be closely involved, particularly to develop effective detection, decontamination, and protective equipment.

The most comprehensive chemical and biological defense program falls under the rubric of the Department of Homeland Security: the Chemical and Biological Defense Division. The Chemical and Biological Defense Division continually researchers and develops programs in " threat characterization, advanced agent/disease surveillance, agent detection, event attribution and post-event response and restoration support," (United States Department of Homeland Security, "Chemical and biological defense division"). The Department of Homeland Security outlines four critical components of a federal "biodefense" program, including threat awareness, prevention and protection, surveillance and detection, and response and recovery," (United States Department of Homeland Security. "Biological Security"). The creation of buffer zones and safety facilities are core components of rapid response, and forensics also helps to identify specific threats. Although the United States has maintained federal policies related to chemical and biological weapons since the early 20th century, recent developments reflect current threats. One of the most recent policy maneuvers has been the National Strategy for CBRNE Standards, CBRNE referring to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives. These standards have a targeted implementation date in 2020. Moreover, this federal policy mandates agency collaboration, coordination of standards, and coordination of response.

Of all the government agencies, FEMA is most responsible for coordination and response as opposed to detection. FEMA manages and coordinates federal and state agencies, harnessing the power of local organizations as well. For example, first responders at the local level like police and fire departments need to be briefed on counterterrorism responses related to biological and chemical defense weaponry. First responders need to possess or have access to proper protective gear, and local jurisdictions need safe zones and planned protection for citizens. Likewise, state level officials and organizations and mobilize resources and work closely with federal agencies. Task division and role differentiation helps to maximize role clarity regarding each stakeholder. Identification of warning signs, such as sudden appearance of dead animals, unexplained odors, debris, or even odd cloud formations need to be reported from the local agencies through predetermined channels of communication (Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)). The CDC also addresses coordination and communication efforts, mobilizing local, state, and federal resources (Khan and Sage).

Prevention, detection, and response measures vary depending on the specific weapon. Regarding biological attacks, pathogens can be loosely grouped into contagious and noncontagious categories. Anthrax is an example of non-contagious weapons; Ebola would be an example of a contagious one. Targets are not limited to humans, and can include attacks on plants and animals that therefore disrupt food supplies and the economy (United States Department of Homeland Security, "Biological Attack Fact Sheet: Human Pathogens, Biotoxins, and Agricultural Threats."). Routes of entry for chemical weapons vary depending on the substance, and include inhalation, ingestion, and absorption. The chemicals hostile parties may use include gases, blister agents, blood or nerve agents, psychoactive chemicals, riot control agents, vomiting agents, herbicides, napalm, and smoke (Morgan). Many of these weapons have been used for decades; some for almost a century. For example, chlorine and mustard gases were used in World War One (Morgan). Terrorists may have access to a host of relatively simple and innocuous chemicals that can be transformed into weapons of mass destruction.

Preparation and response depends on the effective implementation and distribution of proper protective gear. As the National Academy of Sciences points out, gear varies depending on the level of protection needed and is often grouped into four levels. The first level (Level A) includes equipment that protects against vapor and liquid agents. Equipment may include "a fully encapsulating, chemical-resistant suit, gloves and boots, and a pressure-demand, self-contained breathing apparatus," (National Academy of Sciences 1). Level… [END OF PREVIEW]

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